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Hare-raising adventure in genome assembly

The California sea hare, Aplysia californica, is a species of gastropod molluscs found along the coast of California, United States, and northwestern Mexico. These sea slugs possess the largest nerve cells in the entire animal kingdom, making them a valuable model organism to study the neurobiology of learning and memory [1].

In 2003 Leonid L. Moroz (University of Florida) and Eric R. Kandel (Columbia University) initiated the sequencing of the whole genome of A. californica, which was approved as a priority by National Human Genome Research Institute in March 2005. The Broad Institute, using inbred lines of Aplysia (F4) raised by Tom Capo (NIH Aplysia facility) in collaboration with the Moroz lab generated the first draft assembly for the species in 2006, revised in 2009 and 2013 [2, 3]. Together with Leonid Moroz and his team at the University of Florida we are today releasing a chromosome-length assembly for A. californica based on the 2013 draft from the Broad Institute.

Check out whole-genome alignment of the new assembly to the 14 linkage groups of the channeled applesnail Pomacea canaliculata from (Liu et al., GigaScience, 2018), illustrating, for the first time ever, the conservation of chromosome content across 400 million years of gastropod evolution.

Whole-genome alignment of the new Aplysia californica assembly to the 14 linkage groups of Pomacea canaliculata, from (Liu et al., 2018).

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