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Studies in vertebrate genomics require sampling from a broad range of tissue types, taxa, and localities. Recent advancements in long-read and long-range genome sequencing have made it possible to produce high-quality chromosome-level genome assemblies for almost any organism. However, adequate tissue preservation for the requisite ultra-high molecular weight DNA (uHMW DNA) remains a major challenge. Here we present a comparative study of preservation methods for field and laboratory tissue sampling, across vertebrate classes and different tissue types. We find that no single method is best for all cases. Instead, the optimal storage and extraction methods vary by taxa, by tissue, and by down-stream application. Therefore, we provide sample preservation guidelines that ensure sufficient DNA integrity and amount required for use with long-read and long-range sequencing technologies across vertebrates. Our best practices generated the uHMW DNA needed for the high-quality reference genomes for Phase 1 of the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP), whose ultimate mission is to generate chromosome-level reference genome assemblies of all ~70,000 extant vertebrate species.

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