08 December 2009

Genome research: good idea, bad idea

ResearchBlogging.orgGood idea: A paper in the Journal of Heredity proposes sequencing 10,000 genomes...

Bad idea: ...of vertebrates.

Okay, I’ll admit that isn’t strictly a bad idea. But it certainly leaves something to be desired, given that a news article in Science characterized this plan as, “No genome left behind.” But of course, it leaves a tremendous number of genomes behind, namely, every single invertebrate. What are the current estimates for number of vertebrate species? Maybe 60,000 or so? The crustaceans alone probably have about the same number of species. The number of vertebrate species is not even close to the number of beetle species.

The paper provides no rationale for doing such a massive scan of the vertebrate genomes alone as opposed to a project that would include the invertebrates. Indeed, the word “invertebrates” appears only once, in reference to fisheries.

In fairness, I actually do think it’s great that these researchers are working together and suggesting a big, bold scheme. I’ve made no secret that I want a crayfish genome project. With this 10K genome paper, maybe it’s time to start thinking about a larger scale invertebrate genome sequencing project that will cover the rest of the animal kingdom, even though it’s obviously not possible to do the same level of coverage as the small vertebrate sub-phylum.


Genome 10K Community of Scientists. (2009). Genome 10K: A Proposal to Obtain Whole-Genome Sequence for 10 000 Vertebrate Species Journal of Heredity, 100 (6), 659-674 DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esp086

Pennisi, E. (2009). No Genome Left Behind Science, 326 (5954), 794-795 DOI: 10.1126/science.326_794


Kyle said...

Here, here!

Kevin Zelnio said...

I guess its good if you want to study "fine-scale" speciation, but I hear you on the need for more inverts! There were lots of cool surprises when the draft Nematostella genome came out, think of what discoveries wait for us when we get the genomes for annelids, hemichordate, chaetognath or even many of the so-called "minor phyla" and even the crayfish. My boss has been talking about getting a blue crab genome project started using 454.