• Question: Which kingdom of living organisms do each of you believe have the most to offer from being sequenced and why? Thank you for indulging my curiosity!

    Asked by charcoal to Beaver, Canada Goose, Cirl Bunting, Danish Scurvygrass, Fen Raft Spider, Cyanobacterium, Pill Millipede, Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Tree Lichen on 26 Nov 2017.
    • Photo: Canada Goose

      Canada Goose answered on 26 Nov 2017:

      This is an excellent question and one that is difficult to answer. The most obvious criteria is sequencing the species that most benefits humans.

      The advantages are most obvious for domestic species – eg food crops and farm animals. Essentially, knowledge of the genes gives us the ability to speed up selective breeding, as well as understanding strengths and vulnerabilities in these organisms. This is why sequencing Canada goose would be useful – domestic birds can get lots of diseases, but we don’t really have a good idea which the goose spreads, and which it doesn’t. With a better understanding of its immune system, we could decide whether precautions need to be taken to protect other species, or maybe use the info in other species (chickens, turkeys) to make them less vulnerable to these diseases.

      Organisms that produce toxins may be of interest to medicine – what does the toxin do, how can it be used medicinally? Venoms have been used as the basis of drugs to treat high blood pressure (snake), chronic pain (snake, sea snail), autoimmune disease (anemone) and diabetes (gila monster). But so many toxins remain unidentified and unexplored.

      Comparative genomics – the differences between humans and other organisms. Many organisms have evolutionary adaptations to help them to survive, this may be different in different species. Understanding these differences may help understand and treat human disease. Crazy things like bactrian camels have blood glucose levels double that of other grazing animals and can tolerate very high levels of dietary salt – because these have been sequenced we can begin to understand how their metabolism is different from ours.

      Basic science. Sequencing the genome of any organism is a great opportunity to increase our knowledge of how animals and plants evolved.

      So much of scientific discovery has been by accident – you don’t necessarily know what you will discover when you sequence a species’ genome. A green fluorescent protein discovered in jellyfish has become a hugely important tool in biology, being able to take the genetic sequence from the jellyfish and put it into other animals had such an impact on science that the discovery and development of it won the Nobel Prize in 2008.

    • Photo: Cyanobacterium

      Cyanobacterium answered on 26 Nov 2017:

      Good question! I think the organisms that can potentially have the biggest effect on human health and of great importance for the environment.

    • Photo: Tree Lichen

      Tree Lichen answered on 30 Nov 2017:

      Anything that puts together the puzzles of how life evolved is worth sequencing! For example, It is a commonly held belief that life first emerged from the Oceans and that Eucaryotic life itself emerged via some massive step from Archaea! More sophisticted Archaea are being found all the time now but to date NO amoebae-like organsim has been isolated from Hot Thermal Vents or other exotic locations. It would great to find such an organsim that descended from such an ancient Proto-amoeba to sequence, possibly in the UK?!
      To understand how complex life evolved on the barren Earth over 550 million years ago we should study ancient organisms that can be traced back that far! Hence my enthusiasm to sequence Lichens and Sponges!

    • Photo: Small Red-eyed Damselfy

      Small Red-eyed Damselfy answered on 30 Nov 2017:

      Well I don’t think there is one kingdom in particular that is more important that other, on the contrary all of them have a ecological importance in a given environment, so I would say instead of considering one kingdom, we should focus on key species of the environment we want to research, protect or explore. some researches called them umbrella species, as they are good indicators of the whole system.

    • Photo: Danish Scurvygrass

      Danish Scurvygrass answered on 30 Nov 2017:

      This is a a really good question. I would not say any particular branch of life is more important then any other in terms of importance. However, having said that funds are limited so we may be tempted to set priorities to sequence certain groups before others. One of the great challenges we face today is how to feed more and more people in the future. The world population is 6 billion today, and its estimated that that it will be 9 billion by the end of this century. So we must increase the yields from crop plants. We were able to do this in the 1960 and 1970’s worldwide because of the green revolution.

      We need a second green revolution today, and in the decades to come. I knowledhe of the genomes of the major crop plants such as wheat, rice, maize etc would help us to produce improved varities of these plant and also perhaps help us to identify new crops. So I would say plants should be prioriised in terms of genomic sequencing.