Minke whale genome and aquatic adaptation in cetaceans

Nat Genet. 2014 Jan;46(1):88-92. doi: 10.1038/ng.2835. Epub 2013 Nov 24.


The shift from terrestrial to aquatic life by whales was a substantial evolutionary event. Here we report the whole-genome sequencing and de novo assembly of the minke whale genome, as well as the whole-genome sequences of three minke whales, a fin whale, a bottlenose dolphin and a finless porpoise. Our comparative genomic analysis identified an expansion in the whale lineage of gene families associated with stress-responsive proteins and anaerobic metabolism, whereas gene families related to body hair and sensory receptors were contracted. Our analysis also identified whale-specific mutations in genes encoding antioxidants and enzymes controlling blood pressure and salt concentration. Overall the whale-genome sequences exhibited distinct features that are associated with the physiological and morphological changes needed for life in an aquatic environment, marked by resistance to physiological stresses caused by a lack of oxygen, increased amounts of reactive oxygen species and high salt levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / genetics
  • Genome*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Haptoglobins / genetics
  • Male
  • Minke Whale / genetics*
  • Minke Whale / metabolism
  • Multigene Family
  • Mutation
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Phylogeny
  • Population Density
  • Salt Tolerance
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Haptoglobins
  • Glutathione

Associated data

  • SRA/SRA090057
  • SRA/SRA091100