A widely used approach in next-generation sequencing projects is the alignment of reads to a reference genome. A significant percentage of reads, however, frequently remain unmapped despite improvements in the methods and hardware, which have enhanced the efficiency and accuracy of alignments. Usually unmapped reads are discarded from the analysis process, but significant biological information and insights can be uncovered from this data. We explored the unmapped DNA (normal and bisulfite treated) and RNA sequence reads of the great tit (
Many of the aligned contigs showed sequence similarity to sequences from different bird species and genes that were absent in the great tit reference assembly. Furthermore, there were also contigs that represented known
Our analyses revealed that meaningful biological information can be found when further exploring unmapped reads. It is possible to discover sequences that are either absent or misassembled in the reference genome and sequences that indicate infection or sample contamination. In this study we also propose strategies to aid the capture and interpretation of this information from unmapped reads.