Mojave Desert Tortoise Genome Decoded

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Researchers from Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences have decoded the Mojave Desert Tortoise’s genome.

The genome provides a starting point for a number of studies focusing on disease resistance, adaptations to the desert environment, distribution of genetic diversity across its range and hybridization with its sister species.

The Mojave Desert tortoise population has seen considerable decline in its habitat that includes California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. This species is listed as ‘threatened’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and is considered ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The breakthrough could help the animal survive an increasing number of threats. Government agencies and other researchers have been monitoring tortoise populations in the Southwest for more than two decades.

The genome is an important resource for the conservation of the Gopherus agassizii tortoise, particularly because this population is suffering from a serious disease.

Incredibly, desert tortoises can live up to 50 years in the wild, with lifespans estimated between 30 to 50 years. Tortoises in captivity have been known to live as long as 100 years.

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