Abstract: The northern white rhinoceros (NWR; Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is functionally extinct, with only two females remaining alive. Efforts to rescue the NWR have inspired the exploration of unconventional conservation methods, including the generation of artificial gametes from induced pluripotent stem cells and somatic cell nuclear transfer. To enable the technologies required for these approaches, we used complementary sequencing and mapping methods to generate a NWR chromosome-level reference genome that meets or exceeds the metrics proposed by the Vertebrate Genome Project. It represents 40 autosomes, an X and a partially-resolved Y chromosome, and the mitochondrial genome. We compared the NWR reference genome to the southern white rhinoceros (SWR) population that has been physically separated from the NWR for tens of thousands of years. Using short-read data from the SWR and optical mapping, we found that the two populations are very similar on both the chromosome level and mitochondrial genome level. The results of this study are encouraging for the efforts underway to rescue the NWR.

Journal Link: 10.1101/2021.12.11.472206 Journal Link: Publisher Website Journal Link: Download PDF Journal Link: Google Scholar