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Title: Signature of adaptive evolution in olfactory receptor genes in Cory’s Shearwater supports molecular basis for smell in procellariiform seabirds

Olfactory receptors (ORs), encoded by the largest vertebrate multigene family, enable the detection of thousands of unique odorants in the environment and consequently play a critical role in species survival. Here, we advance our knowledge of OR gene evolution in procellariiform seabirds, an avian group which relies on the sense of olfaction for critical ecological functions. We built a cosmid library of Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis) genomic DNA, a model species for the study of olfaction-based navigation, and sequence OR gene-positive cosmid clones with a combination of sequencing technologies. We identified 220 OR open reading frames, 20 of which are full length, intact OR genes, and found a large ratio of partial and pseudogenes to intact OR genes (2:1), suggestive of a dynamic mode of evolution. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that while a few genes cluster with those of other sauropsid species in aγ(gamma) clade that predates the divergence of different avian lineages, most genes belong to an avian-specificγ-c clade, within which sequences cluster by species, suggesting frequent duplication and/or gene conversion events. We identified evidence of positive selection on full lengthγ-c clade genes. These patterns are consistent with a key role of adaptation in the functional diversification of olfactory more » receptor genes in a bird lineage that relies extensively on olfaction.

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Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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