The genome of the sea anemone Actinia equina (L.): Meiotic toolkit genes and the question of sexual reproduction.


School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK. Electronic address: [Email]


The beadlet anemone Actinia equina (L.) (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Actiniaria: Actiniidae) is one of the most familiar organisms of the North European intertidal zone. Once considered a single, morphologically variable species across northern Europe, it is now recognised as one member of a variable species complex. Previous studies of distribution, aggression, allozymes and mitochondrial DNA suggest that the diversity in form and colour within A. equina may hide still unrecognised species diversity. To empower further study of A. equina population genetics and systematics, we sequenced (PacBio Sequel) the genome of a single A. equina individual to produce a high-quality genome assembly (contig N50 = 492,607 bp, 1485 contigs, number of protein coding genes = 47,671, 97% BUSCO completeness). There is debate as to whether A. equina reproduces solely asexually, since no reliable, consistent evidence of sexual reproduction has been found. To gain further insight, we examined the genome for evidence of a 'meiotic toolkit' - genes believed to be found consistently in sexually reproducing organisms - and demonstrate that the A. equina genome appears not to have this full complement. Additionally, Smudgeplot analysis, coupled with high haplotype diversity, indicates this genome assembly to be of ambiguous ploidy, suggesting that A. equina may not be diploid. The suggested polyploid nature of this species coupled with the deficiency in meiotic toolkit genes, indicates that further field and laboratory studies of this species is warranted to understand how this species reproduces and what role ploidy may play in speciation within this speciose genus.


Cryptic species,Meiotic toolkit,Phylum Cnidaria,Ploidy,Speciation,

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