UMMZ rabbit specimens collected in the 1940's and 1950's help researchers understand the evolution of resistance to myxoma virus
An unprecedented study of DNA from European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) specimens spanning 150 years and thousands of miles has revealed the genetic basis for the animal’s fightback against the deadly myxoma virus. Using the latest technology, an international team led by the University of Cambridge and CIBIO Institute in Porto, extracted DNA from nearly 200 rabbits dating from 1865–2013, including one owned by Charles Darwin. The scientists then sequenced nearly 20,000 genes to pinpoint mutations that have emerged since the myxomatosis pandemics of the 1950s. Five rabbit specimens collected in Great Britain and France between 1945-1951 were from the UMMZ collection of mammals. The study, published in the journal Science, establishes that modern rabbits in Australia, the UK and France have acquired resistance to myxomatosis through the same genetic changes. The scientists also discovered that this resistance relies on the cumulative impact of multiple mutations of different genes.