Evolutionary history of the extinct Sardinian dhole

Marta Maria Ciucani*, Julie Kragmose Jensen, Mikkel Holger S. Sinding, Oliver Smith, Saverio Bartolini Lucenti, Erika Rosengren, Lorenzo Rook, Caterinella Tuveri, Marisa Arca, Enrico Cappellini, Marco Galaverni, Ettore Randi, Chunxue Guo, Guojie Zhang, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Love Dalén, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Shyam Gopalakrishnan


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2 Citationer (Scopus)


The Sardinian dhole (Cynotherium sardous)1 was an iconic and unique canid species that was endemic to Sardinia and Corsica until it became extinct at the end of the Late Pleistocene.2–5 Given its peculiar dental morphology, small body size, and high level of endemism, several extant canids have been proposed as possible relatives of the Sardinian dhole, including the Asian dhole and African hunting dog ancestor.3,6–9 Morphometric analyses3,6,8–12 have failed to clarify the evolutionary relationship with other canids.We sequenced the genome of a ca-21,100-year-old Sardinian dhole in order to understand its genomic history and clarify its phylogenetic position. We found that it represents a separate taxon from all other living canids from Eurasia, Africa, and North America, and that the Sardinian dhole lineage diverged from the Asian dhole ca 885 ka. We additionally detected historical gene flow between the Sardinian and Asian dhole lineages, which ended approximately 500-300 ka, when the land bridge between Sardinia and mainland Italy was already broken, severing their population connectivity. Our sample showed low genome-wide diversity compared to other extant canids—probably a result of the long-term isolation—that could have contributed to the subsequent extinction of the Sardinian dhole.

TidsskriftCurrent Biology
Udgave nummer24
Sider (fra-til)5571-5579.e6
StatusUdgivet - 20 dec. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the ERC Consolidator grant 681396 , “Extinction Genomics.” This work has been performed within a 5-year (2017–2022) scientific agreement between the “ Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle arti e Paesaggio per le province di Sassari, Olbia-Tempio e Nuoro ” and the University of Florence Earth Sciences department and is framed within a wider project on Late Neogene vertebrate evolution granted by the University of Florence (Fondi di Ateneo) under the responsibility of L.R. The authors also acknowledge support from Science for Life Laboratory , the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation , the National Genomics Infrastructure funded by the Swedish Research Council , and Uppsala Multidisciplinary Center for Advanced Computational Science for assistance with massively parallel sequencing and access to the UPPMAX computational infrastructure. We would like to thank Ashot Margaryan, Davide Palumbo, Elisabetta Cilli, and Romolo Caniglia for useful intellectual discussions about this research and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


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