Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-BS


Biology & Earth Science


Dr. Simon K. Lawrance

First Committee Member

Dr. Simon K. Lawrance

Second Committee Member

Dr. Halard Lescinsky

Third Committee Member

Dr. John Tansey


Penguin, Conservation, MHC, Genetics, Aquarium

Subject Categories

Biochemistry | Higher Education | Molecular Biology | Structural Biology


The South African Penguin has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) alleles provide valuable statistics because of their variation in terms of vertebrate genomes and are pertinent to immune and reproductive health. A greater number of MHC alleles correlates with survivability of a population because the genes control the immune and reproductive systems. Legacy research by Otterbein alumni and Dr. Simon Lawrance studied MHC samples from wild, in situ, and captive, ex situ, penguin populations. By comparing these populations' major histocompatibility complexes through biostatistical analysis, contributions to conservation of the species both inside and out of the wild can be made. One goal of this research was to compare the MHC of in situ and ex situ penguins through analysis of previously obtained allele sequences and identification of unreported alleles. Another goal was to expand the scope of the previous work done by colleagues through applying new primers to old samples. This primer set encompasses the entirety of Exon 2 which contains the coding sequences for the MHC class II beta chain. Out of six prior MHC class II samples, three unreported alleles were analyzed as potential new alleles. The first polymerase chain reaction product of penguin blood using the new primers, Lpen.hum1F and Lpen.hum2R, was sequenced and its results show a promising level of polymorphism across the length of the sequence.

Licensing Permission

Copyright, all rights reserved. Fair Use