Ruminants are the only extant mammalian group possessing bony (osseous) headgear. We obtained 221 transcriptomes from bovids and cervids and sequenced three genomes representing the only two pecoran lineages that convergently lack headgear. Comparative analyses reveal that bovid horns and cervid antlers share similar gene expression profiles and a common cellular basis developed from neural crest stem cells. The rapid regenerative properties of antler tissue involve exploitation of oncogenetic pathways, and at the same time some tumor suppressor genes are under strong selection in deer. These results provide insights into the evolutionary origin of ruminant headgear as well as mammalian organ regeneration and oncogenesis.
The reindeer is an Arctic species that exhibits distinctive biological characteristics, for which the underlying genetic basis remains largely unknown. We compared the genomes of reindeer against those of other ruminants and nonruminant mammals to reveal the genetic basis of light arrhythmicity, high vitamin D metabolic efficiency, the antler growth trait of females, and docility. We validate that two reindeer vitamin D metabolic genes (CYP27B1 and POR) show signs of positive selection and exhibit higher catalytic activity than those of other ruminants. A mutation upstream of the reindeer CCND1 gene endows an extra functional binding motif of the androgen receptor and thereby may result in female antlers. Furthermore, a mutation (proline-1172->threonine) in reindeer PER2 results in loss of binding ability with CRY1, which may explain circadian arrhythmicity in reindeer.
The ruminants are one of the most successful mammalian lineages, exhibiting morphological and habitat diversity and containing several key livestock species. To better understand their evolution, we generated and analyzed de novo assembled genomes of 44 ruminant species, representing all six Ruminantia families. We used these genomes to create a time-calibrated phylogeny to resolve topological controversies, overcoming the challenges of incomplete lineage sorting. Population dynamic analyses show that population declines commenced between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago, which is concomitant with expansion in human populations. We also reveal genes and regulatory elements that possibly contribute to the evolution of the digestive system, cranial appendages, immune system, metabolism, body size, cursorial locomotion, and dentition of the ruminants.