Based on both morphological and limited genetic markers, the phylogeny of wallabies was uncertain. This paper (open) sequenced the genomes of 11 species of wallabies and kangaroos and built a multi-locus phylogeny. Three of these species are IUCN listed as “near threatened” (yellow-footed rock wallaby, black wallaroo, and parma wallaby). The authors observed several unexpected relationships between species based on the genomic data. They also observed that the individual gene trees they built were not always concordant with the species tree, indicating either ancient introgression or incomplete lineage sorting. The 11 genomes sequenced for this project will likely support new insights into marsupial evolution and conservation.
Adapting to the Oceans: the Sperm Whale Genome
The distribution of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) includes all four oceans and ranges from holarctic to tropical water temperatures. IUCN has listed the species as vulnerable to extinction, because even though local and commercial whaling have decreased, individuals still become tangled in fishing lines. This new paper (open) sequenced and assembled the sperm whale genome, then identified genes under selection. The authors found that genes regulating blood circulation and genes that control skin traits were under selection. The authors also sequenced an additional four genomes from individuals in different ocean basins and estimated effective population size over time. They found size has increased or decreased with glacial cycles over the past 1M years, but been relatively stable. This information will help conservationists understand background population sizes for this species.
Side photo of Tammar wallaby used with permission of Anna MacDonald.