After sequencing the jute genome in 2017, Bangladesh has now brought another landmark achievement in scientific research: it decoded the genomes of Ruhi, Kalbaus and freshwater dolphin, a global first.
At the same time, the country also completed sequences of the Mrigel and Catla fishes, which was however done earlier by China and India respectively.
A team led by Chittagong University Zoology Department Professor Dr Manzoorul Kibria unveiled the genome sequences of the four carps and the Gangetic freshwater dolphin after a two-year effort.
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has already recognised the work and Bangladesh has the patent on it. It also preserved the sequenced data which can be accessed by any researcher around the world for further research.
The information was revealed at a webinar organised by the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) in Chattogram on Tuesday.
Dr Manzoorul Kibria, also coordinator of the Halda River Research Laboratory under the University of Chittagong, and Dr AMAM Junaid Siddiqui, professor at the Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Science University, were present at the event.
Professor Junaid Siddiqui provided technical support as a genome sequence expert to the team comprising two researchers from New Zealand and China, five students from Chittagong University, five from the Veterinary University and Premier University.
"We completed genome sequencing of Ruhi, Kalbaus and Gangetic dolphins for the first time in the world," Junaid Siddiqui told The Business Standard.
"The genome sequence of freshwater dolphins has elevated Bangladesh's position on the world stage," added the professor.
Some 82,788 genes have been identified in this study, of which 16,609, are of Ruhi fish, 16,597 of Catla fish, 16,607 of Mrigal fish, 17,620 of Kalbaus fish, and 18,365 genes of the freshwater dolphin, said Prof AMAM Junaid Siddiqui.
"Halda river is the only natural pure gene bank for fishes like Ruhi in Bangladesh. The modern complete genome formatting is a very effective method in scientific research which helps us conduct the physiological research of the fishes," said Dr Manjurul Kibria who led the research.
"Various comparative studies have been done to determine the genetic differences between different carp species. However, no complete genome sequencing of wild Ruhi, Catla, Mrigal and Kalbaus had been revealed before."
"As such, the research will help us with different diseases of the fishes, their capability to respond to the diseases, inbreeding problems, and other important biological processes," said Dr Manzoorul Kibria.
The research team collected specimens from a dead dolphin, weighing 70-80 kg, and some 16-17 kg Ruhi, Catla, Mrigal and Kalbaus fishes, in 2018.
Junaid Siddiqui said, "We can now also work on finding out the reasons why freshwater dolphins die frequently. We can know whether it is a genetic problem or because of water contamination."
"We will also be able to know why Halda fishes are different from others and what their characteristics are."
He added, "Several researchers from University of Andrews and various other institutes have expressed interest in working with us on further research."
The PKSF and the Integrated Development Foundation (IDF) financially supported the research project.
PKSF Managing Director Nomita Halder said, "We responded immediately upon getting a proposal from Professor Manjurul Kibria for the project."
"We did not take it simply as a project but as our social responsibility to save the Halda river."