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Sequencing the Zoo

For their DNA Zoo, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are sequencing the DNA of more than a thousand species, Texas Monthly reports. It adds that the researchers there, led by Erez Lieberman Aiden, hope to help enable endangered species to persist.

According to Texas Monthly, the project began in 2011 and has amassed samples from 4,234 animals, encompassing 1,105 species. Most of these samples, it notes, have come from zoos or aquariums, and can help ensure that mating animals aren't too closely related and preserve endangered species' genetic diversity. Some sampling approaches have had to be creative, the magazine notes — DNA was collected from southern right whale by sampling the air it snorts out of its blowhole.

"The DNA Zoo won't be the only piece we need to preserve the genomes of these animals to push forward the idea of conservation, but it is a huge piece in that puzzle," Blake Hanson from the University of Texas Health Science Center tells Texas Monthly.