Genome rivalry

Here are the other contenders and why researchers behind the pitches, who come from all over the world, think their genomes should be sequenced


Why is this the most interesting genome in the world?

Charles Darwin stated that the process of domestication can be divided into two steps that we now call unconscious and artificial selection.

Unconscious selection may be defined as non-intentional human selection, while artificial selection is the breeding of desirable traits. This is thought to be the process by which thousands of domestic plants and animals around the world have been produced and continue to be developed.

We aim, for the first time and in a unique case, to test Darwin's hypothesis and differentiate the genomic and genetic processes involved in unconscious and artificial selection. The Australian dingo is the ideal species to explore these questions because it represents an intermediate step along the evolutionary pathway from wild wolves to domestic dogs.


Why is this the most interesting genome in the world?

Bombardiers are among the world's most impressive chemists. Their genetic machinery provides for biochemical warfare.

They repel predators with rapid-fire, precisely-aimed explosive discharges of a toxic chemical mix at over 100 deg C, earning them lead roles in media and culture.

Yet the genomic basis of this extraordinary ability remains a mystery. The first bombardier genome will allow us to understand the genetic basis of bombardier chemical production, solving a longstanding evolutionary puzzle. This understanding will elucidate the currently unknown genetic basis of explosive chemical defence in the animal kingdom.


Why is this the most interesting genome in the world?

The pink pigeon would be the first endangered bird species to be sequenced with PacBio's Iso-Seq method, which would make this species a blueprint for future conservation genomic research.

We are in a unique position to find out the reasons for the pink pigeon's continued decline; low genetic diversity reduces reproductive success and makes birds susceptible to infectious disease.

With recent advances in sequencing technology, such as the Iso-Seq method, we aim to identify the causative genetic variants responsible for the decline in population numbers. This is pivotal for the genetic rescue of the population through the reintroduction of beneficial genetic variants still present in captive individuals in zoos, thereby stopping the pink pigeon from becoming the next Dodo.


Why is this the most interesting genome in the world?

The "solar-powered" sea slug Elysia timida is no beast of fiction. It is a real Mediterranean sacoglossan that can "steal" chloroplasts - the little solar panels where photosynthesis takes place - from its algal food source.

These "stolen" plastids are then stored in a still functional state in the slug's digestive gland cells, allowing the slug to endure at least three months of starvation. During this time, the chloroplasts continue photosynthesis and build up a starch reservoir that finally can be used by the slug.

This phenomenon, termed functional kleptoplasty, is unique among animals and, with this extraordinary evolutionary feature, E. timida stands for a climate- and eco-friendly lifestyle. However, the genetic basis enabling this lifestyle remains poorly understood.

See the solar sea slug stealing sustenance at pag2017/solar-powered-slug/


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Genome rivalry'. Print Edition | Subscribe