July 30, 2009

Australian Reef Undergoing Genome-Mapping Study

Scientists in Australia announced on Thursday that a new genome-mapping project is underway that could help the Great Barrier Reef fight off the threats of climate change and toxic farm chemicals.

The geneticists said that they are working on unlocking the secrets of the colorful acropora millepora coral, which has slowed in growing the last few years.  This coral is one of the main components of the northeastern tourist attraction.

"This gene-mapping project has both practical and scientific significance," said professor David Miller of Australia's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.

"It will help us to understand how corals build reefs -- and why they fail to do so when they are under stress."

This is Australia's first attempt to gene-sequence a complex animal, and the scientists are expecting to unveil why warmer sea temperatures and chemical run-off have stifled the Reef's growth.

One of Australia's top attractions is the World Heritage-listed reef, which is 133,000 square miles, and it has been short-listed in a competition to find the world's seven natural wonders.

However, lately the reef has undergone the growing threat of climate change and chemical run-off from farms.  Australia announced in January that it is cracking down on farmers that let pesticides and fertilizers leak into the sea.


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