Reconstruction of avian ancestral karyotypes reveals differences in the evolutionary history of macro- and microchromosomes

Joana Damas, Jaebum Kim, Marta Farré, Darren K. Griffin, Denis M. Larkin

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Reconstruction of ancestral karyotypes is critical for our understanding of genome evolution, allowing for the identification of the gross changes that shaped extant genomes. The identification of such changes and their time of occurrence can shed light on the biology of each species, clade and their evolutionary history. However, this is impeded by both the fragmented nature of the majority of genome assemblies and the limitations of the available software to work with them. These limitations are particularly apparent in birds, with only 10 chromosome-level assemblies reported thus far. Algorithmic approaches applied to fragmented genome assemblies can nonetheless help define patterns of chromosomal change in defined taxonomic groups.

Here, we make use of the DESCHRAMBLER algorithm to perform the first large-scale study of ancestral chromosome structure and evolution in birds. This algorithm allows us to reconstruct the overall genome structure of 14 key nodes of avian evolution from the Avian ancestor to the ancestor of the Estrildidae, Thraupidae and Fringillidae families.

Analysis of these reconstructions provides important insights into the variability of rearrangement rates during avian evolution and allows the detection of patterns related to the chromosome distribution of evolutionary breakpoint regions. Moreover, the inclusion of microchromosomes in our reconstructions allows us to provide novel insights into the evolution of these avian chromosomes, specifically
Original languageEnglish
Article number155
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 05 Oct 2018


  • ancestral karyotypes
  • avian
  • chromosome evolution
  • evolutionary breakpoint regions
  • homologous synteny blocks
  • Homologous synteny blocks
  • Ancestral karyotypes
  • Avian
  • Evolutionary breakpoint regions
  • Chromosome evolution
  • DNA Transposable Elements/genetics
  • Gene Rearrangement/genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Synteny/genetics
  • Conserved Sequence/genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Birds/genetics
  • Chromosomes/genetics
  • Gene Ontology
  • Karyotype
  • DNA, Intergenic/genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular


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