Ancient and modern genomes unravel the evolutionary history of the rhinoceros family.

Liu S, Westbury MV, Dussex N, Mitchell KJ, Sinding MS, Heintzman PD, Duchêne DA, Kapp JD, von Seth J, Heiniger H, Sánchez-Barreiro F, Margaryan A, André-Olsen R, De Cahsan B, Meng G, Yang C, Chen L, van der Valk T, Moodley Y, Rookmaaker K, Bruford MW, Ryder O, Steiner C, Bruins-van Sonsbeek LGR, Vartanyan S, Guo C, Cooper A, Kosintsev P, Kirillova I, Lister AM, Marques-Bonet T, Gopalakrishnan S, Dunn RR, Lorenzen ED, Shapiro B, Zhang G, Antoine PO, Dalén L, Gilbert MTP

Cell 184 (19) 4874-4885.e16 [2021-09-16; online 2021-08-24]

Only five species of the once-diverse Rhinocerotidae remain, making the reconstruction of their evolutionary history a challenge to biologists since Darwin. We sequenced genomes from five rhinoceros species (three extinct and two living), which we compared to existing data from the remaining three living species and a range of outgroups. We identify an early divergence between extant African and Eurasian lineages, resolving a key debate regarding the phylogeny of extant rhinoceroses. This early Miocene (∼16 million years ago [mya]) split post-dates the land bridge formation between the Afro-Arabian and Eurasian landmasses. Our analyses also show that while rhinoceros genomes in general exhibit low levels of genome-wide diversity, heterozygosity is lowest and inbreeding is highest in the modern species. These results suggest that while low genetic diversity is a long-term feature of the family, it has been particularly exacerbated recently, likely reflecting recent anthropogenic-driven population declines.

NGI Stockholm (Genomics Applications) [Service]

NGI Stockholm (Genomics Production) [Service]

National Genomics Infrastructure [Service]

PubMed 34433011

DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2021.07.032

Crossref 10.1016/j.cell.2021.07.032

pii: S0092-8674(21)00891-6