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A genome of rhea beauty

Today, we continue exploring paleognaths genomics with a chromosome-length assembly for another flightless bird, the greater rhea Rhea americana. Greater rheas are found throughout South America where they are the largest extant bird species. Their population is currently decreasing, and rheas are now listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN [1].

Just like our emu genome release from two weeks ago, this assembly is based on a recently published work by (Sackton et al., Science, 2019). The blood sample for Hi-C library preparation was donated by Huevo, a female greater rhea from the Houston Zoo.

We compare the genomes of the two chromosome-length paleognaths, the greater rhea and the emu (~60MY to common ancestor), as well as the genome of a representative neognath, the chicken (~100MY to common ancestor), below. Note extensive conservation of synteny between autosomes, observed all the way to chicken, but not so much for the sex chromosome (#1 in rhea, #34 in chicken).

Whole-genome alignment plots between the new chromosome-length genome assemblies of the greater rhea, emu and the chicken genome assembly (GRCg6a).

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