What We’re Reading- Jan 13, 2017

Ash Trees Under Attack
European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) face dieback across their range due to a fungal pathogen (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus).  Currently, there is no effective treatment for trees with the fungus, including managed removal of trees to prevent spread of the disease.  However, natural variation in resistance to the pathogen is known and could be used in managed breeding to introduce resistant alleles into tree stands.  Thus this new paper (open) with the first full genome of the European ash and identification of genes associated with low susceptibility to the fungus provides exciting new resources to save European ash.  These resources may also benefit other ash species that face threats from the insect emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) which is decimating trees globally.

Photo of European Ash flower buds and flowers by Duncan McEwan for ARKive

The Lynx Gets a Genome, But Will it Ever Have Genomic Variation?!
The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) occurs in two small pockets of habitat in Spain and is endangered with a population size under 200 individuals.  A new paper (open) reports the first genome for the species.  They also report that genetic diversity is extremely low for this species due to three severe bottlenecks in the past 50,000 years.  While the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) also experienced a bottleneck, it was not as strong as the Iberian lynx.  The conservation concern is that with so few individuals and little genetic diversity, the Iberian lynx may have low adaptive potential into the future.  Like all species these cats were meant to adapt to their habitat, as the researchers observed positive selection for vision, hearing, and smelling traits in the lynx!  Current conservation solutions include breeding individuals between the two populations to reduce inbreeding, but that may not be enough to save the Iberian lynx in the long run.

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