NOT the Brazilian aardvark

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

The white-nosed coati Nasua narica is a member of the raccoon family. They are native to North, Central and South America, from Arizona to Argentina. Males and females look alike, but males are much larger. As a result, for a while biologists thought solitary male coatis were a separate species from the females! [1]


Today, we share a $1K short-read genome assembly for Pearl, the white-nosed coati from the Houston Zoo. That’s her on the cover image! We thank Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams for the cover photo.


Read more about the assembly strategy employed here in (Dudchenko et al., 2018).


This is the third member of the raccoon family (Procyonidae) we’ve assembled at DNA Zoo, making genomic analysis of raccoon-family karyotypes possible for the first time. See below how the new genome assembly for the coati compares to those of the common raccoon (Procyon lotor) and the kinkajou (Potos flavus). We see a highly conserved karyotype across all three species.

Whole-genome alignment plots between the white-nosed coati genome assembly (Nasua_narica_HiC) and the assemblies for the kinkajou (Potos_flavus_HiC) and the common raccoon (pl-1k). All species have a chromosome count of 2n=38.

In fact, the karyotype is so conserved that you can easily trace it all the way across the Carnivora order, some 40M years to the common ancestor! See below, for example, how the genome of the white-nosed coati (2n=38) compares to that of the house cat (Felis catus, genome assembly by Pontius et al., 2007), with only a few interchromosomal rearrangements. One supposes this at least to some degree justifies the early settlers mistaking Maine Coons for hybrids between raccoons and cats… Not all that surprising, but not as much genomic conservation when coati’s are compared to aardvarks, also shown below. So, if you are one of those using the term “Brazilian aardvark” to refer to coatis, look at the whole genome alignment plot, think again and read this New Yorker article! :)

Whole-genome alignment between the white-nosed coati genome (Nasua_narica_HiC) and the house cat genome (felCat8). Also show is the whole-genome alignment plot between the coati and the aardvark, genome assembly by the DNA Zoo (OryAfe1.0_HiC).

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