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Volume 592 Issue 7856, 29 April 2021

The spinal frontier

The Vertebrate Genomes Project aims to assemble high-quality reference genomes for all of the roughly 70,000 living vertebrate species, to address fundamental questions in biology, disease and conservation. In this week’s issue, the project takes a step towards that goal with the publication of a flagship paper that reports its first high-quality genomes for 16 species representing the major vertebrate classes, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes. The researchers first evaluated sequencing and assembly approaches on an Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna, pictured on the cover) before applying the findings to assemble the other 15 genomes. The results have allowed the team to correct errors and add missing sequences to existing genomes, and to answer some questions on genome evolution and biology. In linked papers, which include additional genomes, members of the project suggest a universal nomenclature for the neurotransmitters oxytocin and vasotocin and their respective receptors based on genome analysis in vertebrates; they reveal the complex evolution of sex chromosomes in the platypus and short-beaked echidna; and they discover diverse relationships between maternal and paternal chromosomes in the common marmoset.

Cover image: Visuals Unlimited/Nature Picture Library.

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