April 9, 2015
Mountain and Grauer’s gorilla genome sequences announced
An article published in the journal Science on April 10 reveals for the first time the complete genome sequence of the mountain gorilla and Grauer’s gorilla subspecies (which make up the eastern gorilla species). While this is a very important scientific step, it will take some years for all the information to be extracted and analyzed, says Fossey Fund scientist Damien Caillaud, DVM, Ph.D.
What the first analyses show, says Caillaud, is that eastern gorillas have a genetic diversity that is two to three times lower than that of western gorillas (the genome of western gorillas was sequenced about three years ago). This is due to the history of eastern gorilla populations, which have dramatically decreased in size in the last ten thousands of years. However, whether this low diversity has a negative impact on eastern gorilla populations is still unknown. Further research is needed to determine if eastern gorillas face an elevated risk of genetic conditions or infectious disease.
The good news is that we know that the mountain gorilla population has been increasing, due to decades of intense protection by the Fossey Fund, Rwanda park authorities and other partners. However, the growth rate and overall numbers are small and extreme care must continue if they are to survive in the long term.
Caillaud was interviewed in an article for Nature on this subject. Click here to read.