Currently in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, our planet is losing biodiversity fast. Genomics can be a powerful tool for mapping and strengthening biodiversity around the world.
The Darwin Tree of Life (DToL) project is an excellent example of the applications of genomics for biodiversity. The initiative is set to sequence the genomes of all 70,000 species of eukaryotic organisms in Britain and Ireland. It’s a collaboration between biodiversity, genomics and analysis partners that hopes to transform biology, conservation and biotechnology.
EMBL-EBI is contributing its expertise in data coordination and genomic data analysis to annotate the diverse array of genomes, and build the DToL data portal where all the genomes sequenced by the project will be made freely and openly available. Annotations of repeats and genes for each species along with comparative analyses will also be accessible through EMBL-EBI’s Ensembl genome browser.
DToL is part of a larger ambition – the Earth BioGenome Project – which aims to sequence all species on Earth. Exploring the genomes of all known species would give an unprecedented insight into how life on Earth evolved. It also offers a way of mapping the existing biodiversity levels, and could reveal areas that require urgent attention.
In the long-term, sequencing a large number of species from around the world also has the potential to uncover new genes, proteins and metabolic pathways, and could even help us develop new drugs for infectious and inherited diseases.