Researchers at CSIRO revealed that they have finally managed to complete the first sequencing of the entire sheep genome eight years after starting the work and hope that their findings will lead to more effective breeding strategies and new approaches to the management of sheep around the world.
With about 70 million head of sheep in Australia and 1 billion globally, the sequencing of the genome could have a massive impact for the rural economy given that sheep are a major source of meat, milk and wool products.
"We investigated the completed genome to determine which genes are present in a process called gene annotation, which resulted in an advanced understanding of the genes involved in making sheep the unique animals that they are," CSIRO project leader Dr Brian Dalrymple said.
"Given the importance of wool production, we focused on which genes were likely to be involved in producing wool. We identified a new pathway for the metabolism of lipid in sheep skin, which may play a role in both the development of wool and in the efficient production of wool grease (lanolin)," Dalrymple said.
The study is published in the journal Science.