Similar adaptative mechanism but divergent demographic history of four sympatric desert rodents in Eurasian inland

Jilong Cheng, Xingwen Peng, Hong Li, Anderson Feijó, Lin Xia, Georgy I. Shenbrot, Deyan Ge, Zhixin Wen, Dehua Wang, Qisen Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Phenotypes associated with metabolism and water retention are thought to be key to the adaptation of desert species. However, knowledge on the genetic changes and selective regimes on the similar and divergent ways to desert adaptation in sympatric and phylogenetically close desert organisms remains limited. Here, we generate a chromosome level genome assembly for Northern three-toed jerboa (Dipus sagitta) and three other high-quality genome assemblies for Siberian jerboa (Orientallactaga sibirica), Midday jird (Meriones meridianus), and Desert hamster (Phodopus roborovskii). Genomic analyses unveil that desert adaptation of the four species mainly result from similar metabolic pathways, such as arachidonic acid metabolism, thermogenesis, oxidative phosphorylation, insulin related pathway, DNA repair and protein synthesis and degradation. However, the specific evolved genes in the same adaptative molecular pathway often differ in the four species. We also reveal similar niche selection but different demographic histories and sensitivity to climate changes, which may be related to the diversified genomic adaptative features. In addition, our study suggests that nocturnal rodents have evolved some specific adaptative mechanism to desert environments compared to large desert animals. Our genomic resources will provide an important foundation for further research on desert genetic adaptations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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