What secrets does the eastern fox squirrel hold? Dr

What secrets does the eastern fox squirrel hold? Dr

What secrets does the eastern fox squirrel hold? Dr. Nancy Moncrief, VMNH Curator of Mammalogy, plans to use a new tool to unlock the genetic mysteries of this fascinating species.

Along with Drs. Lin Kang, Pawel Michalak, and Eric Hallerman, Dr. Moncrief recently co-authored the paper "A draft genome assembly for the eastern fox squirrel Sciurus niger," which was published in the journal "G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics." Using funding provided by the VMNH Foundation, the team sequenced the entire genome of the fox squirrel, providing the first ever reference sequence for this species.

The genome sequence is essentially a roadmap of the squirrel's genes, which will allow researchers the world over to gain a better understanding of this species. For example, the sequence can be used to help determine the evolutionary relationships between the fox squirrel and other squirrel species, such as the gray squirrel. Dr. Moncrief also hopes to use this new data to continue her work on the origins of melanism in fox squirrels; essentially, the genetic reasons why some fox squirrels have all-black fur.

"I am very thankful for the funding that the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation provided, because without that funding, this study would not have happened," Dr. Moncrief said. "I'm hoping to take this information and build on it in future studies of fox squirrels and gray squirrels."

Visit Dr. Moncrief's webpage on the museum's website to download this publication as a free PDF document, as well as other publications!


PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

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