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A Genome for Hapu

In Partnership with Revive & Restore

Welcome to the next round of the Revive & Restore and Cantata Bio® A Genome For (AG4) program. This new fundraising program will enable the sequencing and assembly of the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) genome. Cantata Bio will donate $500 on behalf of every service project sold starting on June 1, 2022 until enough funds are raised to sequence and assemble the Humpback whale genome. The Cantata Bio funds will be supplemented by donations from EFoundation, F. Carminati, L. Jourdan, T. Vandendries, H. Atrafi, N. Hauser, R. Kropa, A. Collette, D. Lang, and the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation. The program, named A Genome for Hapu, is part of Revive & Restore’s Wild Genomes initiative and will be an open resource made available to the research community.

Who is Hapu?

Humpback whales were hunted to near extinction until whaling was banned in 1963. Population recovery was and continues to be slow due to long generation times and human interference. However, and interestingly, it seems that the near decimation of humpbacks did not lead to a bottleneck effect. For this AG4 project, Cantata Bio will build a haplotype-resolved (true diploid) genome assembly of a Cook Islands humpback, nicknamed Hapu. Biologists, including Giugi Carminati and others at the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, will then use the genome assembly as a tool to better understand genetic variation and diversity within the various humpback whale populations. The resulting genetic data will be crucial for humpback whale conservation, now and into the future. The completed reference genome will become part of Revive & Restore’s Wild Genomes collection for public access.

Humpback whales are, in part, special because they are found all over the globe. The assumption has been that humpbacks are a single homogeneous species. However, recent genetic studies have revealed that global humpback whale populations are quite different from each other and belong to several subspecies. In addition, humpback whales are also special because they have been able to “beat cancer,” which has led cancer researchers to use cetacean genomes to understand how this feat could enable improved human cancer treatments.

Common Name Scientific Name Greatest Threats Range Population Size
Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae Climate change, fishnets, human noise and interference Global 135000
Humpback whale - Revive & Restore Wild Genomes initiative

Funds Raised

What needs to be done?

A high-quality reference genome assembly is an essential tool for understanding the biology of any organism. Since the genome encodes a full set of instructions for Hapu’s development and maintenance, it is critical to decode this “organism blueprint” to lay a foundation for future conservation genetics studies, such as population-scale resequencing.

Humpback whales are a keystone species and critical for ocean ecosystem preservation. As climate change and other human pressures continue to mount, it will be very important to understand humpback whale genetics and population structure so that conservation biologists can better manage the species. A haplotype-resolved genome assembly is the ultimate reference genome, containing both haplotypes assembled to chromosome-scale. The genome assembly will be an invaluable tool, and act as a launchpad for downstream genetic studies. With this tool, biologists will be better equipped to understand intra- and inter-species differences in various whale populations and help to conserve the species for generations to come.

How can you help?

Is your research in need of a de novo genome assembly or does the assembly you have require improvement? Starting June 1, 2022 Cantata Bio will donate $500 on behalf of each service project customer until Hapu’s fundraising goal has been reached. Please click below to learn more about our service offerings and to request a quote.

Giugi Carminati

“I am beyond grateful to be partnering with Cantata Bio and Revive & Restore to develop a first-of-its-kind genome for the humpback whale. Using a sample collected by the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, we will open the door for a whole new avenue of research and inquiry.”

Giugi Carminati, Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation
Todd Dickinson, CEO, Cantata Bio

“The importance of whales in ocean ecosystem conservation cannot be overstated. At Cantata Bio, we are all hands on deck to get Hapu’s genome assembly into the hands of conservation biologists as quickly as possible!”

Todd Dickinson, CEO, Cantata Bio

Ready to start your project or want to learn more?


In addition to Cantata Bio, contributions were made by EFoundation, F. Carminati, L. Jourdan, T. Vandendries, H. Atrafi, N. Hauser, R. Kropa, A. Collette, D. Lang, and the CCRC.