The target animal
The Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) inhabits Lake Saimaa in Southeastern Finland. This endemic ringed seal subspecies derives from marine seals that became trapped in Lake Saimaa c. 10,000 years ago, when Finnish inland lakes formed after the retreat of glaciers from the area. The population underwent a dramatic decline during the last 100 years; currently the lake harbors c. 300 individuals of this endemic and critically endangered seal subspecies.
During its long isolation, the population has lost a large portion of the original genetic diversity. The low variability in the population may pose a threat for its survival in a changing climate, but it also makes the Saimaa ringed seal an excellent model system for studying the effects of population isolation and phenotypic evolution.
The SRSGP aims at sequencing and publishing the full genome of the Saimaa ringed seal by the end of the year 2016. The resultant information will be used to enhance conservation efforts and to conduct research on the genetic basis of phenotypic variation.
Next-generation sequencing was performed at the DNA sequencing and Genomics laboratory at the Institute of Biotechnology in Helsinki.
The genome will be made publicly available at the Ensembl database.
The SRSGP is funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.