Xiangjiang Zhan, Shengkai Pan, Junyi Wang, Andrew Dixon, Jing He, Margit G Muller, Peixiang Ni, Li Hu, Yuan Liu, Haolong Hou, Yuanping Chen, Jinquan Xia, Qiong Luo, Pengwei Xu, Ying Chen, Shengguang Liao, Changchang Cao, Shukun Gao, Zhaobao Wang, Zhen Yue, Guoqing Li, Ye Yin, Nick C Fox, Jun Wang, and Michael W Bruford, 'Peregrine and Saker Falcon Genome Sequences Provide Insights into Evolution of a Predatory Lifestyle', Nature genetics, (2013).
As top predators, falcons possess unique morphological, physiological and behavioral adaptations that allow them to be successful hunters: for example, the peregrine is renowned as the world's fastest animal. To examine the evolutionary basis of predatory adaptations, we sequenced the genomes of both the peregrine (Falco peregrinus) and saker falcon (Falco cherrug), and we present parallel, genome-wide evidence for evolutionary innovation and selection for a predatory lifestyle. The genomes, assembled using Illumina deep sequencing with greater than 100-fold coverage, are both approximately 1.2 Gb in length, with transcriptome-assisted prediction of approximately 16,200 genes for both species. Analysis of 8,424 orthologs in both falcons, chicken, zebra finch and turkey identified consistent evidence for genome-wide rapid evolution in these raptors. SNP-based inference showed contrasting recent demographic trajectories for the two falcons, and gene-based analysis highlighted falcon-specific evolutionary novelties for beak development and olfaction and specifically for homeostasis-related genes in the arid environment–adapted saker.