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Nature Papers Present Amplicon Sequencing Approach, Dire Wolf Genomes

A team led by scientists from Aalborg University reports a new method for high-throughput amplicon sequencing in Nature Methods this week. The approach combines unique molecular identifiers with sequencing of long amplicons on either Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) or Pacific Biosciences platforms. According to its developers, the workflow generates higher single-molecule accuracy and lower chimera rates with amplicons than was previously possible on long-read sequencing platforms. They note that the choice of sequencing platform depends on specific applications of interest, with ONT's better suited for rapid testing and iterative development and PacBio's having an advantage in sensitive applications such as detecting low-abundance variants.

By sequencing the genomes of five dire wolves — a now-extinct species of wolf-like carnivores that were common in North America during the Pleistocene Epoch — a group led by scientists from Queen Mary University of London uncover new details about the evolution of these animals and their relationship to modern wolves. The investigators sequenced and analyzed five dire wolf genomes from sub-fossil remains dating from 13,000 to more than 50,000 years ago. They find that while dire wolves resembled grey wolves, they were a highly divergent lineage that split from living canids around 5.7 million years ago and likely originated in the Americas. Notably, there is no evidence of gene flow between dire wolves and either North American grey wolves or coyotes, suggesting dire wolves evolved in isolation from the ancestors of these other canines. This isolation, the study's authors write, may have prevented dire wolves from acquiring traits that could have helped them survive the Late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions.