Chromosome Research

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 1215–1231 | Cite as

Chromosome painting shows that skunks (Mephitidae, Carnivora) have highly rearranged karyotypes

  • P. L. Perelman
  • A. S. Graphodatsky
  • J. W. Dragoo
  • N. A. Serdyukova
  • G. Stone
  • P. Cavagna
  • A. Menotti
  • W. Nie
  • P. C. M. O’Brien
  • J. Wang
  • S. Burkett
  • K. Yuki
  • M. E. Roelke
  • S. J. O’Brien
  • F. Yang
  • R. Stanyon


The karyotypic relationships of skunks (Mephitidae) with other major clades of carnivores are not yet established. Here, multi-directional chromosome painting was used to reveal the karyological relationships among skunks and between Mephitidae (skunks) and Procyonidae (raccoons). Representative species from three genera of Mephitidae (Mephitis mephitis, 2n = 50; Mephitis macroura, 2n = 50; Conepatus leuconotus, 2n = 46; Spilogale gracilis, 2n = 60) and one species of Procyonidae (Procyon lotor, 2n = 38) were studied. Chromosomal homology was mapped by hybridization of five sets of whole-chromosome paints derived from stone marten (Martes foina, 2n = 38), cat, skunks (M. mephitis; M. macroura) and human. The karyotype of the raccoon is highly conserved and identical to the hypothetical ancestral musteloid karyotype, suggesting that procyonids have a particular importance for establishing the karyological evolution within the caniforms. Ten fission events and five fusion events are necessary to generate the ancestral skunk karyotype from the ancestral carnivore karyotype. Our results show that Mephitidae joins Canidae and Ursidae as the third family of carnivores that are characterized by a high rate of karyotype evolution. Shared derived chromosomal fusion of stone marten chromosomes 6 and 14 phylogenetically links the American hog-nosed skunk and eastern spotted skunk.

Key words

evolution karyotype Procyonidae raccoon skunk stone marten 





Conepatus leuconotus, American hog-nosed skunk


Felis catus, cat


Homo sapiens, human


Martes foina, stone marten


Mephitis macroura, hooded skunk


Mephitis mephitis, striped skunk


Procyon lotor, northern raccoon


Spilogale gracilis, western spotted skunk

Other abbreviations



ancestral carnivore karyotype


ancestral musteloid karyotype


bacterial artificial chromosome


heterochromatic regions close to the centromeres and regions rich in satellite DNA


fraction of DNA consisting largely of highly repetitive sequences




degenerate oligonucleotide primer PCR


fluorescence activated cell sorting


fluorescent in-situ hybridization


fluorescein isothiocyanate


Giemsa banding


nucleolar organising region


phosphate buffered saline


polymerase chain reaction


standard saline citrate



Gwen Dragoo provided valuable assistance in obtaining skin biopsies for several of the skunk samples. This study was funded in part by research grants of the Russian Fund for Basic Research, programmes of the Russian Academy of Science: Molecular and Cell Biology, Biosphere Origin and Evolution, Dynamics of Genofunds of Plants, Animals and Human and Integration programme of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science (A.S.G.). R.S. was partially supported by a grant ‘Mobility of Italian and foreign researchers residing abroad’ from MIUR. The research of G.S. and MER were supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, NCI, CCR, NCI-Frederick.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. L. Perelman
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. S. Graphodatsky
    • 1
  • J. W. Dragoo
    • 4
  • N. A. Serdyukova
    • 1
  • G. Stone
    • 6
  • P. Cavagna
    • 10
  • A. Menotti
    • 6
  • W. Nie
    • 5
  • P. C. M. O’Brien
    • 3
  • J. Wang
    • 5
  • S. Burkett
    • 6
  • K. Yuki
    • 9
  • M. E. Roelke
    • 2
  • S. J. O’Brien
    • 2
  • F. Yang
    • 7
  • R. Stanyon
    • 8
  1. 1.Institute of Cytology and GeneticsNovosibirskRussia
  2. 2.Laboratory of Genomic DiversityNational Cancer InstituteFrederickUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Veterinary Science, Department of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Museum of Southwestern Biology, Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  5. 5.Kunming Institute of ZoologyThe Chinese Academy of SciencesKunmingPR China
  6. 6.Comparative Molecular Cytogenetics CoreNational Cancer InstituteFrederickUSA
  7. 7.Wellcome Trust Sanger InstituteWellcome Trust Genome CampusCambridgeUK
  8. 8.Department of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  9. 9.Department of Human GeneticsMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  10. 10.Department of Anthropological SciencesUniversity of GenoaGenovaItaly

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