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Genome Sequences Reveal Evolutionary History of South America's Canids

In a paper appearing in PNAS this week, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and other international centers rely on whole-genome sequencing, phylogenetics, comparative genomics, and other approaches to explore South American canid evolution, natural selection, gene flow between species, and the genetic differences behind the wildly different phenotypes found across the South American canids. Based on 18 new and 13 available canid genomes — which together represented 10 canid species found in western, central, and eastern parts of South America — the team estimated that canid diversity east of the Andes largely stemmed from an ancestral canid that colonized the continent an estimated 3.5 million to 3.9 million years ago, while regions west of the Andes include canids descended from Lycalopex species colonization and divergence. "Overall, our results reveal evolutionary insights into the adaptive radiation of the most diverse community of endemic canids, which have puzzled evolutionary biologists and naturalists for centuries," the authors conclude.