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Genome elucidation is now in high gear for many organisms, and whilst genetic maps have been developed for a broad array of species, surprisingly, no such maps exist for a crocodilian, or indeed any other non-avian member of the Class Reptilia. Genetic linkage maps are essential tools for the mapping and dissection of complex quantitative trait loci (QTL), and in order to permit systematic genome scans for the identification of genes affecting economically important traits in farmed crocodilians, a comprehensive genetic linage map will be necessary.
A first-generation genetic linkage map for the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) was constructed using 203 microsatellite markers amplified across a two-generation pedigree comprising ten full-sib families from a commercial population at Darwin Crocodile Farm, Northern Territory, Australia. Linkage analyses identified fourteen linkage groups comprising a total of 180 loci, with 23 loci remaining unlinked. Markers were ordered within linkage groups employing a heuristic approach using CRIMAP v3.0 software. The estimated female and male recombination map lengths were 1824.1 and 319.0 centimorgans (cM) respectively, revealing an uncommonly large disparity in recombination map lengths between sexes (ratio of 5.7:1).
We have generated the first genetic linkage map for a crocodilian, or indeed any other non-avian reptile. The uncommonly large disparity in recombination map lengths confirms previous preliminary evidence of major differences in sex-specific recombination rates in a species that exhibits temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). However, at this point the reason for this disparity in saltwater crocodiles remains unclear.
This map will be a valuable resource for crocodilian researchers, facilitating the systematic genome scans necessary for identifying genes affecting complex traits of economic importance in the crocodile industry. In addition, since many of the markers placed on this genetic map have been evaluated in up to 18 other extant species of crocodilian, this map will be of intrinsic value to comparative mapping efforts aimed at understanding genome content and organization among crocodilians, as well as the molecular evolution of reptilian and other amniote genomes. As researchers continue to work towards elucidation of the crocodilian genome, this first generation map lays the groundwork for more detailed mapping investigations, as well as providing a valuable scaffold for future genome sequence assembly.