A region of suppressed recombination misleads neoavian phylogenomics

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2024 Apr 9;121(15):e2319506121. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2319506121. Epub 2024 Apr 1.


Genomes are typically mosaics of regions with different evolutionary histories. When speciation events are closely spaced in time, recombination makes the regions sharing the same history small, and the evolutionary history changes rapidly as we move along the genome. When examining rapid radiations such as the early diversification of Neoaves 66 Mya, typically no consistent history is observed across segments exceeding kilobases of the genome. Here, we report an exception. We found that a 21-Mb region in avian genomes, mapped to chicken chromosome 4, shows an extremely strong and discordance-free signal for a history different from that of the inferred species tree. Such a strong discordance-free signal, indicative of suppressed recombination across many millions of base pairs, is not observed elsewhere in the genome for any deep avian relationships. Although long regions with suppressed recombination have been documented in recently diverged species, our results pertain to relationships dating circa 65 Mya. We provide evidence that this strong signal may be due to an ancient rearrangement that blocked recombination and remained polymorphic for several million years prior to fixation. We show that the presence of this region has misled previous phylogenomic efforts with lower taxon sampling, showing the interplay between taxon and locus sampling. We predict that similar ancient rearrangements may confound phylogenetic analyses in other clades, pointing to a need for new analytical models that incorporate the possibility of such events.

Keywords: avian phylogeny; genome rearrangement; phylogenetic discordance; phylogenomics; recombination.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Birds
  • Genome* / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Recombination, Genetic