Genomic analyses of the extinct Sardinian dhole (Cynotherium sardous) reaveal its evolutionary history
Marta Maria Ciucani,
Julie Kragmose Jensen,
Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding,
Saverio Bartolini Lucenti,
M. Thomas P. Gilbert,
Posted 27 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.26.432714
Posted 27 Feb 2021
The Sardinian dhole (Cynotherium sardous)1 was an iconic and unique canid species of canid that was endemic of Sardinia and Corsica until it became extinct at the end of the Late Pleistocene2-5. Given its peculiar dental morphology, small body size and high level of endemism, several canids have been proposed as possible ancestors of the Sardinian dhole, including the Asian dhole and African hunting dog ancestor 3,6-9. Morphometric analyses3,6,8-12 have failed to clarify the evolutionary relationship with other canids. We sequenced the genome of a ca 21,100 year old Sardinian dhole in order to understand its genomic history and clarify its phylogenetic position. We found it represents a separate taxon from all other living canids from Eurasia, Africa and North America, and that the Sardinian and Asian dhole lineages diverged ca 885 ka. We additionally detected historical gene flow between the Sardinian and Asian dhole lineages, that ended approximately 500-300 ka, when the landbridge between Sardinia and mainland Italy was broken, severing their population connectivity. Our sample showed low genome-wide diversity compared to other extant canids - probably a result of the long-term isolation - that could have contributed to the subsequent extinction of the Sardinian dhole.
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