High-quality carnivoran genomes from roadkill samples enable comparative species delineation in aardwolf and bat-eared fox
Avenant, Nico L
Kitchener, Andrew C
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In a context of ongoing biodiversity erosion, obtaining genomic resources from wildlife is essential for conservation. The thousands of yearly mammalian roadkill provide a useful source material for genomic surveys. To illustrate the potential of this underexploited resource, we used roadkill samples to study the genomic diversity of the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) and the aardwolf (Proteles cristatus), both having subspecies with similar disjunct distributions in Eastern and Southern Africa. First, we obtained reference genomes with high contiguity and gene completeness by combining Nanopore long reads and Illumina short reads. Then, we showed that the two subspecies of aardwolf might warrant species status (P. cristatus and P. septentrionalis) by comparing their genome-wide genetic differentiation to pairs of well-defined species across Carnivora with a new Genetic Differentiation index (GDI) based on only a few resequenced individuals. Finally, we obtained a genome-scale Carnivora phylogeny including the new aardwolf species.