Julia Owen-Ramos

UC Davis

“Use of whole genome sequencing to investigate the evolutionary history of island spotted skunks”

The Island spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis amphiala) is an endemic insular carnivore found on two of the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. To investigate their evolutionary history on the islands, we sequenced two whole genomes from each island and two from the California mainland. Our results show high genomic differentiation between all three populations and genomic signatures of long-term isolation on the islands.

ABSTRACT

Island species have long been considered an important tool for understanding speciation and to investigate forces driving evolution. The Island spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis amphiala) is an endemic insular carnivore found on two of the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California: Santa Rosa Island (SRI) and Santa Cruz Island (SCI). Limited morphological studies found little differentiation between the island spotted skunks and their mainland counterpart, the western spotted skunk (S. gracilis spp.), fueling an idea that spotted skunks arrived on the Channel Islands in the past two centuries. However, genetic studies suggest a longer evolutionary history of spotted skunks on the islands. Still, the degree to which island spotted skunks are diverged from one another and from their mainland relative remain unclear. To further investigate the evolutionary history of island spotted skunks, we sequenced whole genomes from Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and the California mainland. Our results support the antiquity of island spotted skunks, showing high genomic differentiation between all three populations and genomic signatures of long-term isolation on the islands.
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