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Norway's Aqua Genome Project to Sequence Salmon, Cod

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Norway has invested NOK40 million ($7 million) in a new consortium that will use genomic data from the Atlantic cod and the Atlantic salmon to make discoveries about these two commercially important species, about their evolution and adaptation capabilities, the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis in Oslo said today.

Funded by the Norwegian Research Council, the Aqua Genome Project's lead partners include the Centre for Integrative Genetics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the Food Research Institute, and at the selective breeding company Aqua Gen.

The overall goal of the Aqua Genome Project is to boost the efficiency of farmed salmon and cod, to reduce the use of medicine in aquaculture, and to enhance knowledge about salmon and cod evolution and development.

The partners will sequence the genomes of 1,000 salmon and 1,000 cod from a range of locations to create a catalog of genetic variation about these two species. This catalog will provide information about genotype and phenotype studies focused on efficient salmon and cod breeding and production, as well as evolution and adaptation.

The partners also plan to develop commercial products for drug treatment and artificial selection and to improve the health of farm-grown salmon and cod.

The researchers hope that the genomic database on these two species will enable them to understand how the evolutionary processes affect variation, discover specific genetic changes that are involved in adaptation, find out how much whole genome divergence there is across these populations, and understand the strength of selection in natural populations.

Such information could be helpful in developing conservation genetics and management programs, and in identifying specific genetic traits that could be significant for aquaculture.

The consortium also will generate genome-wide expression profiles and genetic patterns that may provide insights into the impact of short and long-term effects of incubation temperature at the early stages of life in both salmon and cod.

The partners plan to integrate all of the data from the three projects into a functional genomics project that will establish a repertoire of generic, functional tests for different traits in both species.

The Aqua Genome Project has several other partners in Norway, including the ELIXIR bioinformatics resource, and international collaborators in Canada, Sweden, Iceland, and Switzerland.