An international team
of researchers led by the University of Adelaide has published the full genome
of the water buffalo - opening the way for improved breeding and conservation of
this economically important animal.
The consortium of
partners in Australia, Italy, China, Brazil, and the USA, with additional
contributors in other countries, say they have now created the tools needed to
apply modern molecular breeding systems to water buffalo.
were domesticated about 5000 years ago, and since then have been of economic
importance for milk, meat and as a work animal around the world," says
consortium leader Professor John Williams, Director of the University of
Adelaide's Davies Research Centre at the Roseworthy campus.
particularly important in developing countries and, in specialised markets, they
provide milk for products such as mozzarella cheese in Italy. The water buffalo
is a key agricultural animal because it is able to adapt to diverse
environments, and is particularly tolerant of disease.
they were brought to Northern Territory in the early 19th century and today
there are milking herds of buffalo in Northern Territory and in South
There are two
subspecies of water buffalo. The researchers sequenced the genome of the River
buffalo, which have been selected for milk production through organised breeding
programs in Italy, India, the Philippines and Brazil.
Professor Williams says
such advances in genomics have revolutionised dairy cattle breeding and now the
same molecular tools will be available for water buffalo breeding. This project
is another great example of the University of Adelaide's depth and expertise in
research areas related to food innovation.
of the buffalo genome provides the essential reference point for studies on the
molecular genetics of the buffalo," Professor Williams says. "It will
help breeders to enhance commercially desirable characteristics in the water
buffalo, and researchers and conservationists to preserve the diversity of
The buffalo genome has
been published in the journalGigaScience.
and joint lead author Dr Daniela Iamartino, R&D Technical Manager at the
AIA-LGS (Italian Breeder Association - Laboratory of Genetics and Services) in
Italy, says: "It is also possible to compare the buffalo genome with that
of other species to understand differences in the biology of buffalo and their
ability to adapt to a wide variety of environments.
"The annotation of
the genome identifies the genes present to explore their function and study the
differences among species," she says.
The consortium led by
Professor Williams has also published details of a specific molecular tool
(called the Buffalo SNP chip) in the journalPLOS
ONE. This SNP Chip will allow researchers and breeders to put the
genome sequence information into practice. Genes that are involved in important
traits related to production and disease can be located and used to estimate the
breeding values of individual bulls and cows.
"This will offer
buffalo breeders the same opportunities for accelerated genetics selection that
is now used by cattle breeders," says Professor Williams.