Chromosomal-level genome assembly of the scimitar-horned oryx: Insights into diversity and demography of a species extinct in the wild

Emily Humble, Pavel Dobrynin, Helen Senn, Justin Chuven, Alan F. Scott, David W. Mohr, Olga Dudchenko, Arina D. Omer, Zane Colaric, Erez Lieberman Aiden, Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, David Wildt, Shireen Oliaji, Gaik Tamazian, Budhan Pukazhenthi, Rob Ogden, Klaus Peter Koepfli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Captive populations provide a valuable insurance against extinctions in the wild. However, they are also vulnerable to the negative impacts of inbreeding, selection and drift. Genetic information is therefore considered a critical aspect of conservation management. Recent developments in sequencing technologies have the potential to improve the outcomes of management programmes; however, the transfer of these approaches to applied conservation has been slow. The scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) is a North African antelope that has been extinct in the wild since the early 1980s and is the focus of a large-scale and long-term reintroduction project. To enable the selection of suitable founder individuals, facilitate post-release monitoring and improve captive breeding management, comprehensive genomic resources are required. Here, we used 10X Chromium sequencing together with Hi-C contact mapping to develop a chromosomal-level genome assembly for the species. The resulting assembly contained 29 chromosomes with a scaffold N50 of 100.4 Mb, and displayed strong chromosomal synteny with the cattle genome. Using resequencing data from six additional individuals, we demonstrated relatively high genetic diversity in the scimitar-horned oryx compared to other mammals, despite it having experienced a strong founding event in captivity. Additionally, the level of diversity across populations varied according to management strategy. Finally, we uncovered a dynamic demographic history that coincided with periods of climate variation during the Pleistocene. Overall, our study provides a clear example of how genomic data can uncover valuable insights into captive populations and contributes important resources to guide future management decisions of an endangered species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1668-1681
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • 10X Chromium
  • Hi-C
  • PSMC
  • conservation genomics
  • single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
  • whole genome resequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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