Conservation milestone for WA’s numbat population

By Melissa Coade

February 9, 2022

numbat on a log
Scientists have mapped a chromosome-length genome for the numbat. (dblumenberg/Adobe)

In a world-first, University of Western Australia (UWA) scientists have mapped a chromosome-length genome for the numbat, which will help inform conservation efforts for the state’s fauna emblem.  

The research, made possible thanks to a numbat blood sample taken from numbats at the Perth Zoo, offers previously unknown information about the DNA of the marsupial.

Environment minister Reece Whitby said the DNA genome map would inform conservation policy for the endangered animals, estimated at numbering fewer than 1,000 in the wild. The data will also be freely available for scientific use, he added.

“Western Australia is a biodiversity hotspot, with some of the most unique wildlife in the world.

“This wildlife needs to be understood and protected, and the partnership between Perth Zoo and DNA Zoo will help to achieve this,” Whitby said in a statement. 

Perth Zoo is the only zoo-based program to have bred numbats and released them back into the wild, with a total of 220 born at the zoo since 1993.

UWA’s DNA Zoo Australia is the lead node for an international animal DNA mapping project. The project has identified more than 1000 animal from the Perth Zoo, with endangered animals have been prioritised in the sample collections. 

“The mapping of the numbat genome is a wonderful scientific achievement which will play a crucial role in our conservation efforts,” Whitby said. 

”A big thank you to everyone involved and I look forward to seeing more exciting results.”


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