Collecting DNA samples isn't easy, especially when your subject is a 10-foot animal that wants to eat you.
But it's a risk David Ray -- a researcher at Mississippi State University -- and his team are willing to take, as they wrestle alligators and crocodiles in hopes of finding answers in these animals' genes.
The researchers are mapping alligator and crocodile genomes, or the total amount of genetic information in the chromosomes of these reptiles. The research could expand our knowledge well beyond crocodilians to other reptiles, birds, and even dinosaurs.
Ray hopes their genetic blueprint will help scientists identify the most genetically diverse members of the species and breed them.
"The more we can understand about the way their genomes are put together the more likely we are to understand how we can keep them from going extinct," Ray said.
When they're not fishing for 'crocs' and 'gators,' Ray's team might be tracking down bats for their research on 'jumping genes.' These genes can copy themselves and literally jump around in a DNA sequence. Better understanding of them could lead to improved genetic therapies.
"The more we can understand about the way their genomes are put together the more likely we are to understand how we can keep them from going extinct," - David Ray, researcher at Mississippi State University.
1. What is DNA?
2. What is a gene?
3. What do genes do?
1. What is a genome?
2. Why is important to understand an animal's genetic make up?
3. How can understanding genomes help keep animals from going extinct? Explain.