De novo genome assembly and genome skims reveal LTRs dominate the genome of a limestone endemic Mountainsnail (Oreohelix idahoensis)

T. Mason Linscott, Andrea González-González, Takahiro Hirano, Christine E. Parent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Calcareous outcrops, rocky areas composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), often host a diverse, specialized, and threatened biomineralizing fauna. Despite the repeated evolution of physiological and morphological adaptations to colonize these mineral rich substrates, there is a lack of genomic resources for calcareous rock endemic species. This has hampered our ability to understand the genomic mechanisms underlying calcareous rock specialization and manage these threatened species. Results: Here, we present a new draft genome assembly of the threatened limestone endemic land snail Oreohelix idahoensis and genome skim data for two other Oreohelix species. The O. idahoensis genome assembly (scaffold N50: 404.19 kb; 86.6% BUSCO genes) is the largest (~ 5.4 Gb) and most repetitive mollusc genome assembled to date (85.74% assembly size). The repetitive landscape was unusually dominated by an expansion of long terminal repeat (LTR) transposable elements (57.73% assembly size) which have shaped the evolution genome size, gene composition through retrotransposition of host genes, and ectopic recombination. Genome skims revealed repeat content is more than 2–3 fold higher in limestone endemic O. idahoensis compared to non-calcareous Oreohelix species. Gene family size analysis revealed stress and biomineralization genes have expanded significantly in the O. idahoensis genome. Conclusions: Hundreds of threatened land snail species are endemic to calcareous rock regions but there are very few genomic resources available to guide their conservation or determine the genomic architecture underlying CaCO3 resource specialization. Our study provides one of the first high quality draft genomes of a calcareous rock endemic land snail which will serve as a foundation for the conservation genomics of this threatened species and for other groups. The high proportion and activity of LTRs in the O. idahoensis genome is unprecedented in molluscan genomics and sheds new light how transposable element content can vary across molluscs. The genomic resources reported here will enable further studies of the genomic mechanisms underlying calcareous rock specialization and the evolution of transposable element content across molluscs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number796
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec


  • Comparative genomics
  • Gene family evolution
  • Genome skim
  • LTR expansion
  • Limestone
  • Oreohelix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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