The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America and belongs to a group of New World vultures. Recovering from a near fatal population decline, and currently with only 197 extant individuals, the species remains listed as endangered. Very little genetic information exists for this species, although sexing methods employing chromosome analysis or W-chromosome specific amplification is routinely applied for the management of this monomorphic species. Keeping in mind that genetic conditions like chondrodystrophy have been identified, preliminary steps were undertaken in this study to understand the genome organization of the condor. This included an extensive cytogenetic analysis that provided (i) a chromosome number of 80 (with a likelihood of an extra pair of microchromosomes), and (ii) information on the centromeres, telomeres and nucleolus organizer regions. Further, a comparison between condor and chicken macrochromosomes was obtained by using individual chicken chromosome specific paints 1–9 and Z and W on condor metaphase spreads. Except for chromosomes 4 and Z, each of the chicken (GGA) macrochromosomes painted a single condor (GCA) macrochromosome. GGA4 paint detected complete homology with two condor chromosomes, viz., GCA4 and GCA9 providing additional proof that the latter are ancestral chromosomes in the birds. The chicken Z chromosome showed correspondence with both Z and W in the condor. The homology suggests that the condor sex chromosomes have not completely differentiated during evolution, which is unlike the majority of the non-ratites studied up till now. Overall, the study provides detailed cytogenetic and basic comparative information on condor chromosomes. These findings significantly advance the effort to study the chondrodystrophy that is responsible for over ten percent mortality in the condor.   

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