Considering the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis, GCA, 2n = 30) as a primitive species, its comparative genomic data are critical for our understanding of the karyotype evolution of pecorans. Here, we have established genome-wide chromosomal homologies between giraffe, Chinese muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi, MRE, 2n = 46) and human (Homo sapiens, HSA, 2n = 46) with whole sets of chromosome-specific paints from Chinese muntjac and human, in addition to providing a high-resolution G-banding karyotype of giraffe. Chinese muntjac and human chromosome paints detected 32 and 45 autosomal homologs in the genome of giraffe, respectively. Our results suggest that it would require at least thirteen fissions, six fusions and three intrachromosomal rearrangements to ‘transform’ the 2n = 44 eutherian ancestral karyotype to the 2n = 58 pecoran ancestral karyotype. During giraffe evolution, some ancestral eutherian syntenies (i.e. association of HSA3/21, 4/8, 7/16, 14/15, 16/19 and two forms of 12/22) have been retained, while several derived syntenies (i.e. associations of human homologous segments 2/1, 2/9, 5/19, 4/12/22, 8/9, and 10/20) have been produced. The reduction of chromosome number in giraffe from the 2n = 58 pecoran ancestral karyotype could be primarily attributed to extensive Robertsonian translocations of ancestral chromosomal segments. More complex chromosomal rearrangements (including tandem fusion, centromere repositioning and pericentric inversion) have happened during the evolution of GCA2 and GCA8.

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