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DNA analysis of a horseracing legend

Posted on June 27, 2013
Phar Lap's skeleton in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Scientists are hoping to sequence its DNA. Credit: Michael Hall, courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Phar Lap’s skeleton in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Scientists are hoping to sequence its DNA. Credit: Michael Hall, courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

A new chapter in the story of Phar Lap is about to be added by the University of Sydney as it leads an attempt to sequence the famous horse’s DNA.

 

“Phar Lap’s heart is in Canberra, his hide is in Melbourne, and his skeleton in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Now the museum has agreed to a 60mg piece of tooth from that skeleton coming to Sydney so we can unravel his genetic history,” said Dr Natasha Hamilton, the team leader from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science. Professor Claire Wade, also from the faculty, will be in charge of the genetic analysis.

The DNA extraction will be performed at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), at the University of Adelaide, before being analysed at the University of Sydney.

“We are doing this out of scientific curiosity and all our data will be made publicly available. The DNA sequence will tell us if Phar Lap’s genetic make-up looks like star racehorses of today, including whether he is a sprinter or a stayer (genetically better suited to running long distances),” Dr Hamilton said.

“We believe that no other southern hemisphere racehorses have had their whole genome sequenced before. By contrast, in Europe this research is quite popular and DNA analysis has been performed on notable horses such as Eclipse, racing’s first superstar and an ancestor of 95 percent of today’s thoroughbreds, and Hyperion, a popular sire from the 1930-50s who is found in numerous pedigrees.”

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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