Linked-Read Sequencing of Eight Falcons Reveals a Unique Genomic Architecture in Flux

Justin J.S. Wilcox, Barbara Arca-Ruibal, Jaime Samour, Victor Mateuta, Youssef Idaghdour, Stéphane Boissinot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Falcons are diverse birds of cultural and economic importance. They have undergone major lineage-specific chromosomal rearrangements, resulting in greatly reduced chromosome counts relative to other birds. Here, we use 10X Genomics linked reads to provide new high-contiguity genomes for two gyrfalcons, a saker falcon, a lanner falcon, three subspecies of peregrine falcons, and the common kestrel. Assisted by a transcriptome sequenced from 22 gyrfalcon tissues, we annotate these genomes for a variety of genomic features, estimate historical demography, and then investigate genomic equilibrium in the context of falcon-specific chromosomal rearrangements. We find that falcon genomes are not in AT-GC equilibrium with a bias in substitutions toward higher AT content; this bias is predominantly but not exclusively driven by hypermutability of CpG sites. Small indels and large structural variants were also biased toward insertions rather than deletions. Patterns of disequilibrium were linked to chromosomal rearrangements: falcons have lost GC content in regions that have fused to larger chromosomes from microchromosomes and gained GC content in regions of macrochromosomes that have translocated to microchromosomes. Inserted bases have accumulated on regions ancestrally belonging to microchromosomes, consistent with insertion-biased gene conversion. We also find an excess of interspersed repeats on regions of microchromosomes that have fused to macrochromosomes. Our results reveal that falcon genomes are in a state of flux. They further suggest that many of the key differences between microchromosomes and macrochromosomes are driven by differences in chromosome size, and indicate a clear role for recombination and biased gene conversion in determining genomic equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberevac090
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • NUMTs
  • biased gene conversion
  • chromosomal fusions
  • falcons
  • microchromosomes
  • substitution equilibrium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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