The newly sequenced bird genomes cover 92% of the world’s avian families


Nov. 11 (UPI) – With the publication of the genomes of 363 bird species, 267 of which have been sequenced for the first time, Project 10,000 Genomes has reached an impressive milestone.

The project, a collaboration between hundreds of scientists in several dozen research institutes, is an effort to sequence the genome of every bird species on Earth. As the name of the project suggests, there are more than 10,000 species of living birds.

While the breakthrough – described in a study Wednesday in the journal Nature – brings scientists only 3% closer to their ultimate goal, the newly published sequencing data offers genomic insights into species from 92% of the world’s avian families.

About 40% of the genome samples that made the latest discovery possible were obtained from bird collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, one of more than 100 institutions supporting the projects.

Although sequencing on the project began in 2011, researchers were laying the groundwork for the B10K project decades earlier.

“Through 34 years of field work and dozens of expeditions, we have been able to obtain the high-quality DNA stash that actually makes this project possible,” study co-author Gary Graves said in a press release. “Many of these assets were stored long before DNA sequencing technology was developed, stored for future analysis that their collectors could not have imagined at the time.”

“It is one of the many reasons why natural history museum collections and museum-based research programs are so important!” said Graves, bird curator at the National Museum of Natural History and one of the project’s seven organizers.

Sequencing efforts were carried out by ornithologists, molecular biologists and computer scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, Rockefeller University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, the University of Copenhagen, the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Imperial College of London and the Beijing Institute of Zoology. like dozens of other museums, universities and research institutes.

“B10K is probably the single most important project ever conducted in the study of birds,” said Graves. “We are not only hoping to know the phylogenetic relationships between the main branches of the bird tree of life, but we are providing a huge amount of comparative data for studying vertebrate evolution and life itself.”

By comparing genomic signatures of species across the entire spectrum of bird families, the researchers hope to put together a complete picture of avian evolution and gain new insights into the evolutionary relationship between modern birds.

The full genomic portrait will not only clarify the history of avian diversification, but will also help scientists and conservationists make more informed decisions about species protection and habitat restoration.

“It provides a ready source of genetic markers useful for mapping population decline, identifying relatives and reducing inbreeding while managing rescue populations of endangered species,” said study co-author Rob Fleischer.

“Having the genomes [also] it simplifies the search for genes responsible for important survival traits such as resistance to introduced deadly diseases, ”said Fleischer, head of the Center for Conservation Genomics at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.


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