Novel insights into chromosome evolution in birds, archosaurs, and reptiles

Marta Farré, Jitendra Narayan, Gancho Slavov, Joana Damas, Loretta Auvil, Cai Li, Erich D. Jarvis, David W. Burt, Darren K. Griffin, Denis M. Larkin

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Homologous synteny blocks (HSBs) and evolutionary breakpoint regions (EBRs) in mammalian chromosomes are enriched for distinct DNA features, contributing to distinct phenotypes. To reveal HSB and EBR roles in avian evolution, we performed a sequence-based comparison of 21 avian and 5 outgroup species using recently sequenced genomes across the avian family tree and a newly-developed algorithm. We identified EBRs and HSBs in ancestral bird, archosaurian (bird, crocodile, and dinosaur), and reptile chromosomes. Genes involved in the regulation of gene expression and biosynthetic processes were preferably located in HSBs, including for example, avian-specific HSBs enriched for genes involved in limb development. Within birds, some lineage-specific EBRs rearranged genes were related to distinct phenotypes, such as forebrain development in parrots. Our findings provide novel evolutionary insights into genome evolution in birds, particularly on how chromosome rearrangements likely contributed to the formation of novel phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2442-2451
Number of pages10
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date10 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2016


  • Birds
  • Chromosome rearrangements
  • Comparative genomics
  • Genome evolution
  • Reptiles
  • Alligators and Crocodiles/genetics
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Animals
  • Genome/genetics
  • Synteny/genetics
  • Reptiles/genetics
  • Birds/genetics
  • Chromosomes/genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular


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