Wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) genome sequencing and the study of its evolution


Reaching a height of 52 m, the wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) is the tallest palm in the world, proudly called the Colombian national tree. The wax palm represents a keystone species, providing food and shelter to birds, mammals and insects, and having positive effects on various components of the biodiversity. the wax palm represents not only an emblematic icon of the Colombian biodiversity, but also a model organism to study ecological and evolutionary processes in cloud forests. Despite this status, the IUCN lists the wax palm as an endangered species in Colombia. Decades of massive deforestation, selective logging and indiscriminate economical uses by local populations have severely reduced its population size. Developments in the study of genomics has increased the knowledge on plant conservation. Here, we aim to generate the first draft of the wax palm genome. Transcriptome data will be used to predict genes involved in wax biosynthesis, glucose metabolic pathways and transcriptional regulators participating in pollination and dispersion. The wax palm genome sequence will enable the discovery of genes regarding adaptation to high altitudes and cold temperatures, common in plants growing in the upper Andes. This genomic initiative should therefore help with conservation programs that are taking place during the past few years in Colombia.

General aim:
  • To study the genus Ceroxylon from its evolution and geology.
Specific objectives:
  • To generate the first reference genome of the wax palm tree using NGS (Next Generation Sequencing)
  • To identify genes involved in different aspects of the adaptation of palms to the ecological conditions typical of the Andean cloud tropical forest, such as those involved in glucose and oil metabolism, and transcription factors participating in pollination and seed dispersal.
  • To discover the genes associated to the adaptation of the wax palm to high altitudes and low temperatures, by means of comparative genomics.