Ground tit genome reveals avian adaptation to living at high altitudes in the Tibetan plateau
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The ground tit (Parus humilis) is endemic to the Tibetan plateau. It is a member of family Paridae but it was long thought to be related to the ground jays because of their morphological similarities. Here we present the ground tit's genome and re-sequence two tits and one ground jay, to clarify this controversially taxonomic status and uncover its genetic adaptations to the Tibetan plateau. Our results show that ground tit groups with two tits and it diverges from them between 7.7 and 9.9 Mya. Compared with other avian genomes, ground tit shows expansion in genes linked to energy metabolism and contractions in genes involved in immune and olfactory perception. We also found positively selected and rapidly evolving genes in hypoxia response and skeletal development. These results indicated that ground tit evolves basic strategies and 'tit-to-jay' change for coping with the life in an extreme environment.
Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis