UMMS Affiliation

Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Genetics and Genomics


The Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) thrives in its extreme Antarctic environment. We generated the Weddell seal genome assembly and a high-quality annotation to investigate genome-wide evolutionary pressures that underlie its phenotype and to study genes implicated in hypoxia tolerance and a lipid-based metabolism. Genome-wide analyses included gene family expansion/contraction, positive selection, and diverged sequence (acceleration) compared to other placental mammals, identifying selection in coding and non-coding sequence in five pathways that may shape cardiovascular phenotype. Lipid metabolism as well as hypoxia genes contained more accelerated regions in the Weddell seal compared to genomic background. Top-significant genes were SUMO2 and EP300; both regulate hypoxia inducible factor signaling. Liver expression of four genes with the strongest acceleration signals differ between Weddell seals and a terrestrial mammal, sheep. We also report a high-density lipoprotein-like particle in Weddell seal serum not present in other mammals, including the shallow-diving harbor seal.


Cardiovascular biology, Evolutionary biology

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit

DOI of Published Version



Noh HJ, Turner-Maier J, Schulberg SA, Fitzgerald ML, Johnson J, Allen KN, Hückstädt LA, Batten AJ, Alfoldi J, Costa DP, Karlsson EK, Zapol WM, Buys ES, Lindblad-Toh K, Hindle AG. The Antarctic Weddell seal genome reveals evidence of selection on cardiovascular phenotype and lipid handling. Commun Biol. 2022 Feb 17;5(1):140. doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-03089-2. PMID: 35177770; PMCID: PMC8854659. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Communications biology

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.