Background: Penguins (Sphenisciformes) are a remarkable order of flightless wing-propelled diving seabirds distributed widely across the southern hemisphere. They share a volant common ancestor with Procellariiformes close to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (66 million years ago) and subsequently lost the ability to fly but enhanced their diving capabilities. With ∼20 species among 6 genera, penguins range from the tropical Galápagos Islands to the oceanic temperate forests of New Zealand, the rocky coastlines of the sub-Antarctic islands, and the sea ice around Antarctica. To inhabit such diverse and extreme environments, penguins evolved many physiological and morphological adaptations. However, they are also highly sensitive to climate change. Therefore, penguins provide an exciting target system for understanding the evolutionary processes of speciation, adaptation, and demography. Genomic data are an emerging resource for addressing questions about such processes.
Results: Here we present a novel dataset of 19 high-coverage genomes that, together with 2 previously published genomes, encompass all extant penguin species. We also present a well-supported phylogeny to clarify the relationships among penguins. In contrast to recent studies, our results demonstrate that the genus Aptenodytes is basal and sister to all other extant penguin genera, providing intriguing new insights into the adaptation of penguins to Antarctica. As such, our dataset provides a novel resource for understanding the evolutionary history of penguins as a clade, as well as the fine-scale relationships of individual penguin lineages. Against this background, we introduce a major consortium of international scientists dedicated to studying these genomes. Moreover, we highlight emerging issues regarding ensuring legal and respectful indigenous consultation, particularly for genomic data originating from New Zealand Taonga species.
Conclusions: We believe that our dataset and project will be important for understanding evolution, increasing cultural heritage and guiding the conservation of this iconic southern hemisphere species assemblage.
Keywords: Antarctica; Sphenisciformes; biogeography; climate change; comparative evolution; demography; evolution; genomics; phylogenetics; speciation.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press.
Two Antarctic Penguin Genomes Reveal Insights Into Their Evolutionary History and Molecular Changes Related to the Antarctic EnvironmentC Li et al. Gigascience 3 (1), 27. PMID 25671092.Our sequencing and initial analyses of the first two penguin genomes provide insights into the timing of penguin origin, fluctuations in effective population sizes of the …
Multiple Gene Evidence for Expansion of Extant Penguins Out of Antarctica Due to Global CoolingAJ Baker et al. Proc Biol Sci 273 (1582), 11-7. PMID 16519228.Classic problems in historical biogeography are where did penguins originate, and why are such mobile birds restricted to the Southern Hemisphere? Competing hypotheses po …
Proliferation of East Antarctic Adélie Penguins in Response to Historical DeglaciationJ Younger et al. BMC Evol Biol 15, 236. PMID 26577544.While changes in sea ice conditions are a critical driver of Adélie penguin population success over decadal and yearly timescales, deglaciation appears to have been the k …
The Influence of Historical Climate Changes on Southern Ocean Marine Predator Populations: A Comparative AnalysisJL Younger et al. Glob Chang Biol 22 (2), 474-93. PMID 26391440. - ReviewThe Southern Ocean ecosystem is undergoing rapid physical and biological changes that are likely to have profound implications for higher-order predators. Here, we compar …
Adélie Penguins and Temperature Changes in Antarctica: A Long-Term ViewCD Millar et al. Integr Zool 7 (2), 113-20. PMID 22691195. - ReviewDuring the summer months, Adélie penguins represent the dominant biomass of terrestrial Antarctica. Literally millions of individuals nest in ice-free areas around the co …
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