Since 2005 Andorra Research + Innovation coordinates a project to monitor the Andorran butterflies and their adaptation to the environment. They have detected 60 species, 20% of them in regression.
Two of the most worrying species are violet copper and chestnut heath, both in regression. They are protagonists of another line of research that aims to sequence their genomes.
Andorra Research + Innovation researcher Manell Niell explains that “the genome is the instruction book to build life. Knowing this genome, we can know what adaptations organisms have in the environment they are in.” Since there are few individuals, there is a greater likelihood that there will be consanguinity and disease that may be rare, could expand within the population. Thanks to this genomics, we can become aware of what potential diseases they may have and whether a decline in this population will be caused by this consanguinity or potential diseases.”
The sequencing is performed at the National Centre for Genomic Analysis (CNAG) in Barcelona, linked to the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), which has a more advanced technology to make these processes. These genomes are part of the European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA) project that integrates into a worldwide study, called the Earth biogenome project.
In relation to the possibilities offered by studying the genome, one of those responsible for the ERGA project and professor of genetics at the University of Barcelona, Montserrat Corominas, explains that it can help make better species conservation. Regarding the modification of species, she states that although “people may be afraid of it, many years ago, since agriculture is known, the species have been modified. Now there are new modification technologies that, to do them correctly, it is necessary to know the genome.” It also emphasizes that sequencing the genome of as many species as possible makes it possible to contribute “an additional level of information that will help make decisions, such as, in defining conservation policies.”
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