Conservation initiatives are now more crucial than ever—over a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction over the coming decades. The genetic management of threatened species held in insurance programs is recommended; however, few are taking advantage of the full range of genomic technologies available today. Less than 1% of the 13505 species currently listed as threated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have a published genome. While there has been much discussion in the literature about the importance of genomics for conservation, there are limited examples of how having a reference genome has changed conservation management practice. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii
), is an endangered Australian marsupial, threatened by an infectious clonal cancer devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). Populations have declined by 80% since the disease was first recorded in 1996. A reference genome for this species was published in 2012 and has been crucial for understanding DFTD and the management of the species in the wild. Here we use the Tasmanian devil as an example of how a reference genome has influenced management actions in the conservation of a species.
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