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Investigating convergent evolution and advancing conservation: a genomic approach focusing on aquatic mammals

Grant number: 23/08158-4
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2024
Effective date (End): July 31, 2025
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Genetics
Principal Investigator:Mariana Freitas Nery
Grantee:Mariana Freitas Nery
Host Investigator: Camila Junqueira Mazzoni
Host Institution: Instituto de Biologia (IB). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Research place: Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Germany  

Abstract

An enduring goal in Evolutionary Biology is to decipher the molecular underpinnings that have driven species' evolution, leading to the vast biodiversity present on our planet today. Comparative genomics has become an indispensable approach in this endeavor, identifying specific genetic variations responsible for group divergence and highlighting genes and genomic regions associated with unique adaptations. In this project, we aim to illuminate the molecular mechanisms behind convergent evolution in aquatic mammals adapted to riverine habitats, specifically focusing on manatees and dolphins from the Amazon Basin and the Brazilian coast. Through comparative genomics, we will identify shared genetic pathways that drive phenotypic convergence and determine their taxonomic specificity. By comparing closely related species (Trichechus manatus vs. Trichechus inunguis and Sotalia guianensis vs. Sotalia fluviatilis), we seek genetic differences that might have catalyzed their divergence. An integral goal is to produce accurate, well-annotated reference genomes for these emblematic species, which will boost conservation efforts by providing a detailed view of their genetic diversity and potential deleterious traits. Our findings will yield valuable knowledge about the genomics of adaptation and species survival, which is vital in an era of rapidly changing ecosystems and escalating conservation challenges. (AU)

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