Oral Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia with the NZ Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

The tuatara genome — insights from the sole survivor of an ancient reptilian Order (649)

Neil Gemmell 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, OTAGO, New Zealand

The tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) is an iconic and enigmatic terrestrial vertebrate, unique to New Zealand. Once widespread across the supercontinent of Gondwana, the tuatara, the only living member of an archaic reptilian order Rhynchocephalia (Sphenodontia) that last shared a common ancestor with other reptiles some 220-250 million years ago, is now only found on a small number of offshore Islands distributed around the coast of New Zealand. Through the efforts of a large international consortium, we have now sequenced, annotated, and analysed the 4.6-Gbp tuatara genome. In this presentation, I will highlight some of the challenges associated with sequencing this genome and the novel insights spanning genome architecture, sex determination, immunity, and homoeostasis that emerge from the genome of this important linchpin in vertebrate evolution. Last, the tuatara is a taonga, or special treasure, for Māori, and I will highlight the additional challenges, and rewards, of working in partnership with indigenous groups who have different cultural mindsets, albeit common goals.