The increasing number of chromosome-level genome assemblies has advanced our knowledge and understanding of macroevolutionary processes. Here, we introduce the genome of the desert horned lizard, Phrynosoma platyrhinos, an iguanid lizard occupying extreme desert conditions of the American southwest. We conduct analysis of the chromosomal structure and composition of this species and compare these features across genomes of 12 other reptiles (5 species of lizards, 3 snakes, 3 turtles, and 1 bird).
The desert horned lizard genome was sequenced using Illumina paired-end reads and assembled and scaffolded using Dovetail Genomics Hi-C and Chicago long-range contact data. The resulting genome assembly has a total length of 1,901.85 Mb, scaffold N50 length of 273.213 Mb, and includes 5,294 scaffolds. The chromosome-level assembly is composed of 6 macrochromosomes and 11 microchromosomes. A total of 20,764 genes were annotated in the assembly. GC content and gene density are higher for microchromosomes than macrochromosomes, while repeat element distributions show the opposite trend. Pathway analyses provide preliminary evidence that microchromosome and macrochromosome gene content are functionally distinct. Synteny analysis indicates that large microchromosome blocks are conserved among closely related species, whereas macrochromosomes show evidence of frequent fusion and fission events among reptiles, even between closely related species.
Our results demonstrate dynamic karyotypic evolution across Reptilia, with frequent inferred splits, fusions, and rearrangements that have resulted in shuffling of chromosomal blocks between macrochromosomes and microchromosomes. Our analyses also provide new evidence for distinct gene content and chromosomal structure between microchromosomes and macrochromosomes within reptiles.