IISER scientists sequence peacock genome —

Peacock (male) - 1In a major breakthrough, researchers at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh, India), have been successful in sequencing the complete genome of Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus), which according to the scientists will go a long way in protecting the population of the national bird. The work was published in the prestigious US-based bioRxiv preprint science server on May 5.

Associate professor Dr. Vineet Sharma, who led the research team, said: “Our group is first in the world to have done genome sequencing of peacock. Sequencing and analysis of the genome of any higher organism (eukaryote) is a difficult and challenging task but the advanced facilities at the institute helped us in achieving the breakthrough. The sequencing was completed in May 2016, and it took almost two years to complete the analysis. The sample of peacock was collected from Van Vihar National Park, Bhopal, with the help of Dr. Atul Gupta (veterinary officer) and the then director of Van Vihar.”

About the research work, he said, “Our study showed that peacock genome is closer to chicken and turkey in evolution. The most significant outcome was the revelation of signs of evolution in genes involved in the early stages of body development which makes it different from other birds.”

‘Peacocks live longer due to their robust immune system’ The research also found the candidate genes responsible for feather patterning which makes peacock as one of the most beautiful bird on the planet. “We also found that it has a robust immune system which perhaps helps it to fight infections and live longer,” said Dr Sharma.

Asked the reason of selecting peacock for genome sequencing, Dr Sharma said, “It is the national bird of India and has been given the highest degree of protection with the conservation status of ‘Schedule-I’ under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is also a biologically very significant bird which even intrigued famous scientist Charles Darwin. This work is extremely significant since it is the first major eukaryotic bird genome reported from India and gains additional importance because peacock is the national bird of India. The genomic clues from this study will serve as leads for further studies to decipher the unique ornamental phenotypes of peacock.”

Other members of the research team are Shubham Jaiswal, Ankit Gupta, Rituja Saxena, Ashok Sharma, Parul Mittal, Ankita Roy, Dr Nagarjun Vijay, Dr. Aaron Shafer and Vishnu Prasoodannan. In addition, this study will also help in devising better strategies for management and conservation of peacock population, which is vulnerable to habitat deterioration, poaching for train-feathers, use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, Dr Sharma said. (Times of India)

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