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Title: Genetic variation drives seasonal onset of hibernation in the 13-lined ground squirrel

Hibernation in sciurid rodents is a dynamic phenotype timed by a circannual clock. When housed in an animal facility, 13-lined ground squirrels exhibit variation in seasonal onset of hibernation, which is not explained by environmental or biological factors. We hypothesized that genetic factors instead drive variation in timing. After increasing genome contiguity, here, we employ a genotype-by-sequencing approach to characterize genetic variation in 153 ground squirrels. Combined with datalogger records (n = 72), we estimate high heritability (61–100%) for hibernation onset. Applying a genome-wide scan with 46,996 variants, we identify 2 loci significantly (p < 7.14 × 10−6), and 12 loci suggestively (p < 2.13 × 10−4), associated with onset. At the most significant locus, whole-genome resequencing reveals a putative causal variant in the promoter ofFAM204A. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analyses further reveal gene associations for 8/14 loci. Our results highlight the power of applying genetic mapping to hibernation and present new insight into genetics driving its onset.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Communications Biology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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