A high-quality carabid genome assembly provides insights into beetle genome evolution and cold adaptation

Mol Ecol Resour. 2021 Aug;21(6):2145-2165. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.13409. Epub 2021 May 21.


The hyperdiverse order Coleoptera comprises a staggering ~25% of known species on Earth. Despite recent breakthroughs in next generation sequencing, there remains a limited representation of beetle diversity in assembled genomes. Most notably, the ground beetle family Carabidae, comprising more than 40,000 described species, has not been studied in a comparative genomics framework using whole genome data. Here we generate a high-quality genome assembly for Nebria riversi, to examine sources of novelty in the genome evolution of beetles, as well as genetic changes associated with specialization to high-elevation alpine habitats. In particular, this genome resource provides a foundation for expanding comparative molecular research into mechanisms of insect cold adaptation. Comparison to other beetles shows a strong signature of genome compaction, with N. riversi possessing a relatively small genome (~147 Mb) compared to other beetles, with associated reductions in repeat element content and intron length. Small genome size is not, however, associated with fewer protein-coding genes, and an analysis of gene family diversity shows significant expansions of genes associated with cellular membranes and membrane transport, as well as protein phosphorylation and muscle filament structure. Finally, our genomic analyses show that these high-elevation beetles have endosymbiotic Spiroplasma, with several metabolic pathways (e.g., propanoate biosynthesis) that might complement N. riversi, although its role as a beneficial symbiont or as a reproductive parasite remains equivocal.

Keywords: Coleoptera; Spiroplasma; cold adaptation; comparative genomics; gene family expansion; insects.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Coleoptera* / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome Size
  • Genome, Insect*
  • Genomics
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Phylogeny

Associated data

  • RefSeq/MG837001.1
  • RefSeq/AWJ64280.1