Welcome to the second project in our Orphan Species Initiative (OSI). The OSI was established to help less privileged countries gain access to high-quality reference genomes for species of importance. In many cases, these will be agriculturally relevant species, but OSI is not limited to that scope. For example, an endangered animal or plant species with cultural importance or with no genomics funding or resources could also be considered. In this second project, we completed a chromosome-scale genome assembly for Ankole cattle (Bos taurus).

Ankole cattle (Bos taurus): Science, Importance, and Relevance

Ankole cattle are a hardy transboundary breed reared in many of the East, Central and South African countries. It exists in several ecotypes/races such as Bahima, Nsagalla, Ntuku, Inyambo, Indundi, Kigezi and Ankole-Watusi. Ankole cattle are treated with the greatest of care and respect by the pastoralists who raise and breed them and for many, represent a key source of income and sustenance. No part of the cattle is wasted: milk, meat, blood, hide, hooves, horns, even dung; all are used in some way to provide for the owners’ livelihood. Ankole cattle owners have specific phenotypic traits they select for to meet their cultural, social, and economic needs, with horn length and shape and lush, dark red coat colour being of high importance. Due to changing socio-economic needs however, breeding objectives targeting greater milk and meat production appear to be edging out culturally relevant traits.

Donald Rugira Kugonza,
Makerere
University, Uganda

Genetic analysis of Ankole cattle is required to identify structural variants, runs of homozygosity, indels and SNPs that are associated with key features of importance like fertility, disease resistance, and increased milk and meat production. A high-quality, haplotype-resolved genome assembly will be a first step in this process and will enable further population-scale genetic analyses of the species. In turn, these analyses will be used to improve cattle breeding efficiency for desired traits. Cantata Bio has teamed up with Donald Rugira Kugonza (Makerere University, Uganda) and Richard Crooijmans (Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands) to share costs for this important project.

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