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Study Unearths Evolutionary Insights in Little Skate Genome

In Nature, investigators at the University College London, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, and elsewhere present findings from a whole-genome sequencing analysis of the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea, a cartilaginous fish with expanded wing-like pectoral fins. The team used a combination of long-read sequencing, short-read sequencing, and chromatin conformation capture to put together a 2.2-gigabase chromosome-scale little skate genome assembly containing more than 26,700 annotated protein-coding genes, before using a combination of comparative genomics, phylogenetic analyses, gene regulatory clues, and functional analyses to explore jawed vertebrate evolution and enlarged fin development. "Our findings underscore the central role of genome reorganization and regulatory variation in the evolution of phenotypes, shedding light on the molecular origin of an enigmatic trait," the authors explain, noting that the work "illustrates how comparative multi-omics approaches can be effectively used to elucidate the molecular underpinnings of evolutionary traits."