Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Project to read genomes of all 70,000 vertebrate species reports first discoveries

(Source: Howard Hughs Medical Institute and Baskin Engineering )

May 6, 2021 — Santa Cruz, CA

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A bold project to read the complete genetic sequences of every known vertebrate species has reached its first milestone, publishing new methods and the first 25 high-quality genomes

It’s one of the most audacious projects in biology today—reading the entire genome of every bird, mammal, lizard, fish, and all other creatures with backbones.

And now comes the first major payoff from the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP): near complete, high-quality genomes of 25 species, including the greater horseshoe bat, the Canada lynx, the platypus, and the kākāpō parrot, one of the first high-quality genomes of an endangered vertebrate species.

The VGP team, including scientists at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, published their findings April 28, 2021, in a special issue of Nature, with companion papers simultaneously published in other scientific journals.

The flagship paper lays out the technical advances that let scientists achieve a new level of accuracy and completeness and paves the way for decoding the genomes of the roughly 70,000 vertebrate species living today, said coauthor David Haussler, director of the Genomics Institute and a professor of biomolecular engineering at UCSC.

“We will get a spectacular picture of how nature actually filled out all the ecosystems with this unbelievably diverse array of animals,” said Haussler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator.

The new results are beginning to deliver on that promise. The project team has discovered previously unknown chromosomes in the zebra finch genome, for example, and a surprise finding about genetic differences between marmoset and human brains. The new research also offers hope for saving the kākāpō and the endangered vaquita dolphin from extinction.

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