Why sequence all eukaryotes?

Mark Blaxter, John M. Archibald, Anna K. Childers, Jonathan A. Coddington, Keith A. Crandall, Federica Di Palma, Richard Durbin, Scott V. Edwards, Jennifer A.M. Graves, Kevin J. Hackett, Neil Hall, Erich D. Jarvis, Rebecca N. Johnson, Elinor K. Karlsson, W. John Kress, Shigehiro Kuraku, Mara K.N. Lawniczak, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Jose V. Lopez, Nancy A. MoranGene E. Robinson, Oliver A. Ryder, Beth Shapiro, Pamela S. Soltis, Tandy Warnow, Guojie Zhang, Harris A. Lewin

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Life on Earth has evolved from initial simplicity to the astounding complexity we experience today. Bacteria and archaea have largely excelled in metabolic diversification, but eukaryotes additionally display abundant morphological innovation. How have these innovations come about and what constraints are there on the origins of novelty and the continuing maintenance of biodiversity on Earth? The history of life and the code for the working parts of cells and systems are written in the genome. The Earth BioGenome Project has proposed that the genomes of all extant, named eukaryotes-about 2 million species-should be sequenced to high quality to produce a digital library of life on Earth, beginning with strategic phylogenetic, ecological, and high-impact priorities. Here we discuss why we should sequence all eukaryotic species, not just a representative few scattered across the many branches of the tree of life.We suggest that many questions of evolutionary and ecological significance will only be addressable when whole-genome data representing divergences at all of the branchings in the tree of life or all species in natural ecosystems are available. We envisage that a genomic tree of life will foster understanding of the ongoing processes of speciation, adaptation, and organismal dependencies within entire ecosystems. These explorations will resolve long-standing problems in phylogenetics, evolution, ecology, conservation, agriculture, bioindustry, and medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2115636118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2022


  • Conservation
  • Diversity
  • Ecology
  • Evolution
  • Genome

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