Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Svalbard sequencing

This post is not in fact about genetics at the Svalbard Seed Vault in Norway, but about some astounding scientific news from that part of the world. In the National Geographic photograph by Paul Nicklen above, you see the footprints of a polar bear's path leading into the distance of the archipelago in the Arctic Ocean that lies midway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. Earlier this year, members of an expedition to Svalbard sponsored by the Norwegian Polar Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and Canon collected snow from footprints, melted it, and filtered out the animal cells that allowed them to identify the genes of a polar bear, a seal it had killed, and a seagull that had been seen nearby. French geneticist Eva Bellemain clarifies, "This is the first time we have got polar bear DNA from a track sample in the snow."

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