ASK about the species and sequencing.
CHAT in a 30 minute text chat with the species champion.
VOTE for a species to be sequenced for the first time ever!
Had a great time talking to students today - makes me want to carve them all a thank you note out of wood!
Around 2,700 Mb (megabase pairs)
The 55-million-year-old Labidolemur kayi
I should be sequenced because... the genome will tell us how genes make the brain work in both beavers and humans, making both of us so smart and handy in building structure
Hello. You probably know me best for using my front teeth to harvest wood from trees and building dams in rivers and lakes. Indeed, we are completely herbivorous and munch on water plants, grasses, shrubs and wood. In the winter, we will store food underwater so that we can access it if the water freezes over.
We build homes called lodges and live in colonies of 2 to 12 beavers per lodge, depending on how many kits (younger than a year old) and yearlings (older than a year old) my partner and I have.
We can be defensive, and mark our territory by building mounds around the edge of our dams. These mounds are made with a combination of mud, wood and stinky substance emitted from our castor sacs called castoreum.
As an animal, we actually share history and biology with humans!
For thousands of years, we have been trapped for our furry pelts and castor sacs. Our pelts are used to make clothes, hats and insulation for homes. We were hunted nearly to extinction for our castoreum as well – people loved this substance of ours for use in traditional medicines and as an enhancer of certain food flavors. Genoming would be a kind thing for humans to do for beavers in return after a horrible history in the past!
Not many people know either that beavers are the only other mammal animals who are capable of altering the environment for our benefit! With our dam-building, we are extremely clever, just like humans. Scientists don’t know yet what genes determine the ways beaver brains work. My beaver genome will help us learn about which genes determine cleverness in beavers. Parts of our genome may be shared with people too, showing how genes and brains could have a similar relationship in both species.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Swimmer, furry, wood-eating!
What's it like where you live?
Wet, muddy, cozy
What's your favourite food?
Bark, leaves, wood, grass and shrubs
What's your family life like?
My colony has between 2 and 12 beavers at any given point
Are you endangered or threatened by anything?
Only until being reintroduced to the UK recently, we were hunted to extinction for our fur, meat and scent glands, which were used in perfume and traditional medicines!
What's the best thing about you/interesting fact?
Our large, leathery tail has many uses - we use it as a rudder while swimming, slap it against the water as a warning for other beavers, use it to prop ourselves up to sit upright, and use it as a counterbalance so we don't trip over while carrying heavy objects in our teeth!
The champion of this species is...
Michael Rivera - I work and study in Cambridge. I work as an archaeologist and look at how people lived in the past, over the last 10,000 years. My favorite activity is to look at bones! Human bones and animal bones can tell us a lot about the ways we're adapted to our environment!