A highly contiguous genome for the golden-fronted woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons) via hybrid oxford nanopore and short read assembly

Graham Wiley, Matthew J. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Woodpeckers are found in nearly every part of the world and have been important for studies of biogeography, phylogeography, and macroecology. Woodpecker hybrid zones are often studied to understand the dynamics of introgression between bird species. Notably, woodpeckers are gaining attention for their enriched levels of transposable elements (TEs) relative to most other birds. This enrichment of TEs may have substantial effects on molecular evolution. However, comparative studies of woodpecker genomes are hindered by the fact that no high-contiguity genome exists for any woodpecker species. Using hybrid assembly methods combining long-read Oxford Nanopore and short-read Illumina sequencing data, we generated a highly contiguous genome assembly for the Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons). The final assembly is 1.31 Gb and comprises 441 contigs plus a full mitochondrial genome. Half of the assembly is represented by 28 contigs (contig L50), each of these contigs is at least 16 Mb in size (contig N50). High recovery (92.6%) of bird-specific BUSCO genes suggests our assembly is both relatively complete and relatively accurate. Over a quarter (25.8%) of the genome consists of repetitive elements, with 287 Mb (21.9%) of those elements assignable to the CR1 superfamily of transposable elements, the highest proportion of CR1 repeats reported for any bird genome to date. Our assembly should improve comparative studies of molecular evolution and genomics in woodpeckers and allies. Additionally, the sequencing and bioinformatic resources used to generate this assembly were relatively low-cost and should provide a direction for development of high-quality genomes for studies of animal biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1829-1836
Number of pages8
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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