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PMMC helps assemble the Guadalupe fur seal

Guadalupe fur seals (Arctocephalus townsendi) are members of the “eared seal” family. Their breeding grounds are almost entirely on Guadalupe Island, off the Pacific coast of Mexico, with recent re-colonization of the islands comprising the San Benito Archipelago. A small number of Guadalupe fur seals have also been reported on the northern Channel Islands off California. [1]

The Guadalupe fur seals were thought to be extinct in the early 1900s. Since their rediscovery in 1954 their population has been steadily increasing (at about 6% rate) thanks to protection by the Mexican government, but Guadalupe fur seals are still listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. [1]

Today, together with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center we share the chromosome-length assembly of the Guadalupe fur seal. Read below the story behind the sample used to generate this genome assembly.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center received a call about a very lethargic animal that has stranded itself at the edge of the Wedge Jetty in Newport Beach, CA. As soon as the team saw the photo they knew it was an endangered Guadalupe fur seal and sent a team right away. Two members of the PMMC animal care rescue team responded. As harbor patrol was busy at the time, the team made the mile round trip trek on the jetty rock to rescue the animal (capture was authorized under NOAA Fisheries Permit # 18786-05).

Juni, the Guadalupe fur seal at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. NOAA Permit # 18786-05.

Once back at the center, the animal, the team names Juni, was examined and determined to be a male, yearling at only 26.7 pounds, emaciated, malnourished and dehydrated.

Over the next few days the animal was under close observation by the veterinary team, tube fed, and given subcutaneous fluids throughout the day. Though he was showing small signs of improvement showing some strength and vocalization, he took a turn and was found dead 5 days after rescue.

PMMC animal care team tube feeding Guadalupe fur seal upon admittance to center. Tube feedings are used to administer nutrients, medicine and other supplements when the patients are too weak to eat on their own. NOAA Permit # 18786-05.

While Juni’s case is an unfortunate one, his story does not end there. We hope that through the collected genomic data from Juni’s tissues samples, his death can provide insight into the intricate lives of this pelagic species. PMMC is dedicated to working with other organizations like the DNA Zoo and Baylor College of Medicine to support collaborative research for ocean and marine mammal conservation.

We thank Hendrik Nollens, Peter Chang, Alissa Deming, Krysta Higuchi and the rest of the team at PMMC for their help with the Guadalupe fur seal sample.

Check out the interactive contact map of the chromosome-length genome assembly comprising 18 chromosomes below. More details are available on the corresponding assembly page!

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