Sex determination of non-model organisms in the absence of field records using Diversity Arrays Technology (DArT) data

Conservation genomics research often relies on accurate sex information to make inferences about species demography, dispersal, and population structure. However, field determined sex data are not always available and can be subject to human error, while laboratory sex determination is costly and often challenging for non-model species. Conservation genomics programs increasingly use reduced-representation genome sequencing to assess neutral and functional genetic diversity, population structure, gene flow and pedigrees in threatened species. Here we demonstrate that sex can be determined from reduced-representation sequencing data produced by the increasingly popular Diversity Arrays Technology sequencing workflow (DArT-seq) using a program originally designed for application to shotgun data. This program – sexassign – compares the “dosage” of sequencing reads mapping to autosomes versus the X chromosome. In the present study, sexassign accurately determined the sex of 60 field-collected Greater Stick-Nest Rat (Leporillus conditor) samples, despite the absence of an annotated reference genome for the species. This “read-dosage” approach is not only more accurate and affordable than traditional sex determination methods, but can be applied to any diploid organism with a heterogametic sex determination system – including non-model and understudied species of conservation importance – by using FASTQs generated by DArT.