The Sardinian dhole (Cynotherium sardous)1 was an iconic and unique canid species that was endemic to Sardinia and Corsica until it became extinct at the end of the Late Pleistocene.2-5 Given its peculiar dental morphology, small body size, and high level of endemism, several extant canids have been proposed as possible relatives of the Sardinian dhole, including the Asian dhole and African hunting dog ancestor.3,6-9 Morphometric analyses3,6,8-12 have failed to clarify the evolutionary relationship with other canids.We sequenced the genome of a ca-21,100-year-old Sardinian dhole in order to understand its genomic history and clarify its phylogenetic position. We found that it represents a separate taxon from all other living canids from Eurasia, Africa, and North America, and that the Sardinian dhole lineage diverged from the Asian dhole ca 885 ka. We additionally detected historical gene flow between the Sardinian and Asian dhole lineages, which ended approximately 500-300 ka, when the land bridge between Sardinia and mainland Italy was already broken, severing their population connectivity. Our sample showed low genome-wide diversity compared to other extant canids-probably a result of the long-term isolation-that could have contributed to the subsequent extinction of the Sardinian dhole.
Keywords: Cuon; Cynotherium; Sardinian dhole; admixture; ancient DNA; canid evolution; canids; extinction; island biodiversity; paleogenomics.
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