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The genome of the Pyrenean desman and the effects of bottlenecks and inbreeding on the genomic landscape of an endangered species

Cite this dataset

Castresana, Jose; Escoda, Lídia (2021). The genome of the Pyrenean desman and the effects of bottlenecks and inbreeding on the genomic landscape of an endangered species [Dataset]. Dryad.


The Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) is a small semiaquatic mammal endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. Despite its limited range, this species presents a strong genetic structure due to past isolation in glacial refugia and subsequent bottlenecks. Additionally, some populations are highly fragmented today as a consequence of river barriers, causing substantial levels of inbreeding. These features make the Pyrenean desman a unique model in which to study the genomic footprints of differentiation, bottlenecks and extreme isolation in an endangered species. To understand these processes, the complete genome of the Pyrenean desman was sequenced and assembled using a Bloom filter-based approach. An analysis of the 1.83 Gb reference genome and the sequencing of five additional individuals from different evolutionary units allowed us to detect its main genomic characteristics. The population differentiation of the species was reflected in highly distinctive demographic trajectories. In addition, a severe population bottleneck during the postglacial recolonization of the eastern Pyrenees created one of the lowest genomic heterozygosity values recorded in a mammal. Moreover, isolation and inbreeding gave rise to a high proportion of runs of homozygosity (ROH). Despite these extremely low levels of genetic diversity, two key multigene families from an eco-evolutionary perspective, the major histocompatibility complex and olfactory receptor genes, showed heterozygosity excess in the majority of individuals, revealing that functional diversity can be maintained up to a certain extent. Furthermore, these two classes of genes were significantly less abundant than expected within ROH. In conclusion, the genomic landscape of each analyzed Pyrenean desman turned out to be strikingly distinctive and was a clear reflection of its recent ancestry and current conservation conditions. These results may help characterize the genomic health of each individual, and can be crucial for the conservation and management of the species.

Usage notes

Genotypes of the six individuals for autosomal scaffolds larger than 40,000 bp with a minimum depth of coverage of 10.

Key commands for the assembly of the reference genome, SNP calling, and PSMC analysis.