Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Genomes & islands & evolution: Oh my!

September 1, 2023

A central question in evolutionary biology is how lineages quickly diversify to occupy different ecological niches, along with determining genomic factors that facilitate evolutionary change. Isolated, oceanic archipelagos are famous for adaptive radiations characterized by endemic, species-rich clades with substantial ecological variation, yet genome resources key to determining eco-evo processes are generally lacking. Here I present a comparison of the number of genome reference assemblies available (as of May 31, 2023) for three major eukaryotic lineages, briefly describe genome sequencing and benchmarking strategies, and highlight as a case study a genome assembly project for Bidens hawaiensis (Koʻokoʻolau, Asteraceae or Compositae; Coreopsidae), a member of a hexaploid Hawaiian plant adaptive radiation. The total number of plant genome references (1,394) was found to substantially lag the total number of genome references for animal (6,003) and fungi (4,400). Improvements to the quality of de novo assembled genomes are fueled by second- and third-generation long-read sequencing advancements, among other sequencing approaches. In conjunction, strategies to improve genome contiguity include optical maps, Hi-C chromatin capture, or trio binning. Continual improvements to genome sequencing and assembly algorithms have brought within reach telomere-to-telomere genome assemblies, albeit this level of sequencing has to date only been achieved in a few cases. With improvements in sequencing techniques and per-base pair costs that continue to trend downward, the number of high-quality genomes is anticipated to continue to increase, leading to the filling in of taxonomic gaps and sampling of groups of taxa from under sampled geographic areas. Increasing the number of plant genome resources available for the study of island endemism could help to shed light on genome-phenome relationships and genome characteristics that have produced the stunning biological diversity that we now observe across the globe.

Publication Year 2023
Title Genomes & islands & evolution: Oh my!
DOI 10.53875/capitulum.03.1.04
Authors Mona Renee Bellinger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Capitulum
Index ID 70248725
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center