Proteus Genome Project

Proteus anguinus, also known as the olm, the European cave salamander or simply proteus, is the World’s largest cave animal, which can only be found in the caves of the Dinaric Karst in the western Balkans. Proteus is not only the iconic animal of Slovenia and a symbol of its biodiversity, natural heritage and pure natural water resources. As one of the most remarkable representatives of underground fauna, it is also globally recognized as a flagship species for the conservation of subterranean environments.

Proteus is a unique species in several aspects. It evolved a range of adaptations to the cave environment, such as loss of pigmentation and compensation of the loss of eyesight by other specialized senses that allow it to navigate and hunt in complete darkness. It has an extremely slow metabolism helping it to survive in food-depleted underground waters. Extreme starvation periods can last for several years with few adverse health effects. With a recorded age of up to a 100 years, proteus is the longest-living amphibian. Last but not least proteus possesses a remarkable regenerative capability and can completely regenerate missing or damaged limbs and other organs. The proteus genome will be the largest genome sequenced so far, surpassing the size of the human genome by around 15 times.

The Proteus Genome Project combines biological, bioinformatics and medical expertise, sequencing and computational resources of the Department of Biology of the Biotechnical Faculty at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lars Bolund Institute of Regenerative Medicine (BGI, Qingdao, China and Aarhus University, Denmark), Aarhus University, and BGI Genomics (BGI, Shenzhen, China).

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