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Ocean institute decodes minke whale DNA

The state-run Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, in cooperation with research agencies abroad, successfully decoded the complete genetic base sequence of minke whales for the first time ever, government officials said on Monday.

The joint research team’s thesis, titled “Minke Whale Genome and Aquatic Adaptation in Cetaceans,” was published in the online edition of Nature Genetics, a scientific journal for genetics research.

“This research is the first worldwide to reveal the physiological and morphological characteristics of the cetacean species on a molecular level and will prove to have established the groundwork for Korea’s future genetic research into whales,” said Yim Hyung-soon, the lead author of the study.

The thesis delves into the evolutionary shift of whales from terrestrial to aquatic life through comparative analysis of the whole-genome sequence between minke whales, a fin whale, a bottlenose dolphin and a finless porpoise, said officials from the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries.

The team also identified whale-specific gene mutations that help control blood pressure and salt concentration, according to the report.

The team now plans to conduct further research into the aquatic evolution and adaptation of mammals and even potential associations to human illnesses.

“Whales are unique mammals that can stay submerged for over an hour, which suggests that they possess the ability to adapt to oxygen deficiency,” said Lee Jung-hyun of KIOST.

“With practical application of the results from our research, we expect it will contribute immensely to the development of treatments for hypoxia-related disorders.”

By Kim Joo-hyun (