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The gene numbers and evolutionary rates of birds were assumed to be much lower than that of mammals, which is in sharp contrast to the huge species number and morphological diversity of birds. It is therefore necessary to construct a complete avian genome and analyze its evolution. We constructed a chicken pan-genome from 20 de novo genome assemblies with high sequencing depth, and identified 1,335 protein-coding genes and 3,011 long noncoding RNAs not previously described. The majority of these novel genes were detected across most individuals of the examined transcriptomes but were randomly measured in each of the DNA sequencing data regardless of Illumina or PacBio technology. Furthermore, different from previous pan-genome models, most of these novel genes were overrepresented on chromosomal sub-telomeric regions and micro-chromosomes, surrounded with extremely high proportions of tandem repeats, and strongly blocked DNA sequencing. These hidden genes were proved to be shared by all chicken genomes, included many housekeeping genes, and enriched in immune pathways. Comparative genomics revealed the novel genes had three-fold elevated substitution rates than known ones, updating the evolutionary rates of birds. Our study provides a framework for constructing a better chicken genome, which will contribute towards the understanding of avian evolution and improvement of poultry breeding.


  • Download the de novo assemblies and Chicken pan-genome resources.
  • BLAST tool for Chicken pan-genome.
  • BLAT tool for Chicken pan-genome.