Phar Lap’s genome to be sequenced

DNA from the New Zealand-born legendary racing horse Phar Lap is to studied in the hope of identifying the genetic underpinnings of the thoroughbred’s success.

File:Phar Lap.jpgThe University of Sydney has this week announced they will be sequencing Phar Lap’s DNA, and the skeleton of the Phar Lap, housed at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, is now missing a tooth, sent to Australia for the DNA extraction and analysis.

“Phar Lap’s heart is in Canberra, his hide is in Melbourne, and his skeleton in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Now the museum has agreed to a 60mg piece of tooth from that skeleton coming to Sydney so we can unravel his genetic history,” said Dr Natasha Hamilton, the team leader from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Phar Lap won 37 of 51 races he entered, including the Melbourne Cup in 1930, in a four year racing career.

“We are doing this out of scientific curiosity and all our data will be made publicly available. The DNA sequence will tell us if Phar Lap’s genetic make-up looks like star racehorses of today, including whether he is a sprinter or a stayer (genetically better suited to running long distances),” Dr Hamilton said.

The processing of Phar Lap’s skeleton meant the DNA was likely to be fragmented and would not be usable in other projects that require large amounts of good quality DNA such as cloning.

“So, sorry punters, there is no hope of Phar Lap II running around a few years from now,” Dr Hamilton said.

The sequencing of Phar Lap’s DNA has made headlines both in  New Zealand and overseas. Examples include. Phar Lap’s DNA Is Under The Microscope
Southland Times: Scientists to study Phar Lap Special part of Phar Lap’s tooth used for DNA project
Radio New Zealand: Phar Lap tooth to be DNA tested
New Zealand Herald: Phar Lap’s DNA mapped, but don’t expect a clone

International coverage:
The Guardian: Phar Lap’s DNA to be compared with other champion thoroughbreds
The Australian: Phar Lap get second wind
The Age:  Phar Lap’s secrets ready to go under DNA microscope
Herald Sun: Search for secret of Phar Lap’s success as scientists analyse tooth
GlobalPost: Australians to sequence Phar Lap genome
PhysOrg: DNA analysis of a horseracing legend
The Australian: DNA testing to find what made Phar Lap tick
ABC News: Scientists to sequence legendary race horse Phar Lap’s winning DNA
Canberra Times: Phar Lap’s DNA goes under microscope