The first chromosome-level genome for a marine mammal as a resource to study ecology and evolution

Guangyi Fan, Yaolei Zhang, Xiaochuan Liu, Jiahao Wang, Zeguo Sun, Shuai Sun, He Zhang, Jianwei Chen, Meiqi Lv, Kai Han, Xiaoxuan Tan, Jie Hu, Rui Guan, Yuanyuan Fu, Shanshan Liu, Xi Chen, Qiwu Xu, Yating Qin, Longqi Liu, Jie BaiOu Wang, Jingbo Tang, Haorong Lu, Zhouchun Shang, Bo Wang, Guohai Hu, Xia Zhao, Yan Zou, Ao Chen, Meihua Gong, Wenwei Zhang, Simon M.-Y. Lee, Songhai Li, Junnian Liu, Zhen Li, Yishan Lu, Jamal S.M. Sabir, Mumdooh J. Sabir, Muhummadh Khan, Nahid H. Hajrah, Ye Yin, Karsten Kristiansen, Huanming Yang, Jian Wang, Xun Xu, Xin Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

36 Downloads (Pure)


Marine mammals are important models for studying convergent evolution and aquatic adaption, and thus reference genomes of marine mammals can provide evolutionary insights. Here, we present the first chromosome-level marine mammal genome assembly based on the data generated by the BGISEQ-500 platform, for a stranded female sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). Using this reference genome, we performed chromosome evolution analysis of the sperm whale, including constructing ancestral chromosomes, identifying chromosome rearrangement events and comparing with cattle chromosomes, which provides a resource for exploring marine mammal adaptation and speciation. We detected a high proportion of long interspersed nuclear elements and expanded gene families, and contraction of major histocompatibility complex region genes which were specific to sperm whale. Using comparisons with sheep and cattle, we analysed positively selected genes to identify gene pathways that may be related to adaptation to the marine environment. Further, we identified possible convergent evolution in aquatic mammals by testing for positively selected genes across three orders of marine mammals. In addition, we used publicly available resequencing data to confirm a rapid decline in global population size in the Pliocene to Pleistocene transition. This study sheds light on the chromosome evolution and genetic mechanisms underpinning sperm whale adaptations, providing valuable resources for future comparative genomics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)944-956
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Ancestral chromosomes
  • Aquatic adaptations
  • Genome assembly
  • Genomics/proteomics
  • Major histocompatibility complex
  • Mammals
  • Molecular evolution
  • Sperm whale


Dive into the research topics of 'The first chromosome-level genome for a marine mammal as a resource to study ecology and evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this