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Seal of approval

The Northern elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris nearly went extinct in the late 19th century. While the species made a dramatic recovery, with 200,000+ individuals alive today, they are all descendants of fewer than 100 individuals that found refuge on the Guadalupe Island, Mexico [1, 2].

Today, we are sharing a chromosome-length genome assembly for the Northern elephant seal (contig N50: 76 kb; scaffold N50: 140 Mb) generated entirely from short Illumina reads (PE150, see Methods for more details on the workflow). The samples for library construction have been collected at Año Nuevo State Park in California by Jane Khudyakov (University of the Pacific) and Daniel Crocker (Sonoma State University). We thank Ben Neely at NIST for coordinating the effort to collect these valuable samples!

Prior to the recent genome releases here at DNA Zoo, the only de novo chromosome-length assembly in the dog-like family (the suborder Caniformia) was the dog itself (Canis lupus familiaris), which diverged from seal ~50 million years ago. Below, you can see that the two species have very different karyotypes.

At DNA Zoo, we have now released eleven other Caniformia genomes: red panda (Ailurus fulgens), dingo (Canis lupus dingo), sea otter (Enhydra lutris), African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo), walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), common raccoon (Procyon lotor), American black bear (Ursus americanus), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes). The most apt comparison is with walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), the only other pinniped in the DNA Zoo. The most recent common ancestor of the walrus and the seal lived ~35 million years ago. They show much stronger conservation of synteny. The data contrast helps illustrate the fact that the dog has one of the most extensively rearranged mammalian karyotypes investigated so far.

The genome assemblies for the walrus and dog used in the analysis can be found here and here, respectively.

Whole-genome alignment plots between the walrus (left) and domestic dog (right) to the Northern elephant seal genome assemblies.

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