Scientists set out to map the genes of Canada’s most iconic species

Lynx, snowshoe hare will be among the first animal species in the country to have their genomes sequenced.

They’re like co-starring leads in one of North America’s best known and researched predator-prey shows.

Now the lynx and the snowshoe hare are about to become stars of an ambitious new project — to sequence the genomes of 150 of Canada’s most notable and significant species. They’ll be the first two.

“This was just a no-brainer project,” said Dr. Stephen Scherer, a molecular scientist and the director of the Centre for Applied Genomics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He’s also a lead researcher on the CanSeq150 project.

The results could help researchers understand why species in Canada have developed the way they have — and how they have developed in relation to each other. The lynx and the snowshoe hare are interdependent on each other as predator and prey, Scherer said.

Scientists have long studied and tested individual genes, but only in recent years have they been able to map out the entire genetic code of an individual. As technology improves, it gets cheaper to do so every year.

CanSeq150 grew out of another project launched a couple of years ago by the same team of scientists. They became the first to sequence the genome of the beaver and presented their results as a sort of 150th birthday present to Canada.

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