The Ursidae family includes eight species, the karyotype of which diverges somewhat, in both chromosome number and morphology, from that of other families in the order Carnivora. The combination of consensus molecular phylogeny and high-resolution trypsin G-banded karyotype analysis has suggested that ancestral chromosomal fissions and at least two fusion events are associated with the development of the different ursid species. Here, we revisit this hypothesis by hybridizing reciprocal chromosome painting probes derived from the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), domestic cat (Felis catus), and man (Homo sapiens) to representative bear species karyotypes. Comparative analysis of the different chromosome segment homologies allowed reconstruction of the genomic composition of a putative ancestral bear karyotype based upon the recognition of 39 chromosome segments defined by painting as the s mallest c onserved e volutionary u nit s egments (pSCEUS) among these species. The different pSCEUS combinations occurring among modern bear species support and extend the postulated sequence of chromosomal rearrangements and provide a framework to propose patterns of genome reorganization among carnivores and other mammal radiations.

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