Wool pulled from sheep’s genetic code


Sequencing the genome of Texel sheep has allowed scientists to pinpoint genes that help the animals maintain their thick, woolly coats.

Brad A. Freking

The wool has been pulled off of the sheep genome.

Combing through the animal’s 2.6 billion base pairs has revealed genes that help keep sheep’s coats thick and woolly. Comparing the animal’s genome to other mammals’ sequences also suggests that sheep split from goats and cattle a few million years ago during the late Neogene period. The results, published in the June 6 Science, could influence how sheep — a major source of wool, meat and milk — are raised.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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