Sequencing Genes to See What Makes a Thoroughbred
A piece of champion thoroughbred Phar Lap’s tooth is being sent to the University of Sydney’s veterinary science faculty from Wellington so scientists can analyse his DNA and compare it with other champions like Australian racehorse, Black Caviar. Phar Lap’s bones are housed at Te Papa. A chestnut gelding, Phar Lap was foaled on 4 October 1926 in Seadown near Timaru. “We’re creating a DNA sequence which we hope can be used for different studies comparing the DNA from different breeds,” Natasha Hamilton from the University of Sydney faculty said.
“We’d also like to compare Phar Lap’s sequence with other elite performers from the modern era.” Dr Hamilton said the DNA sequencing would also help shed light on the genetic diversity of thoroughbreds around the world, past and present. “What is it that, genetically, makes a thoroughbred different to other breeds?” It will also highlight how modern thoroughbreds have changed or how they have lasted the test of time, she said. “Horses are athletes, so they’re great models for studying exercise physiology.”
Before sequencing can begin, scientists at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) in Adelaide will extract the DNA by boiling the tooth down in a corrosive solution. Scientists hope this process will provide enough high-quality DNA for a complete genome sequence of Phar Lap. This type of analysis on racehorses has never been done in the southern hemisphere, Dr Hamilton said.