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    Survey Shows Genomics Research Is A Popularity Contest Too
    By News Staff | April 30th 2014 09:14 AM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    The genomics revolution has been going on for decades, but half of known eukaryote lineages remain unstudied at the genomic level.

    A new survey, with results published in
    of Trends in Ecology and Evolution, concludes that this is simply a popularity contest and the field is displaying research bias against 'less popular', but potentially genetically rich, single-cell organisms. The lack of microbial representation leaves a world of untapped genetic potential undiscovered.


    The authors call for a broader, objective and species relationship-based initiative to sequence microbial eukaryotic genomes so that the breadth of their diversity is covered.

    Environmental corporations have leveled a similar charge; that cute animals are more likely to be a concern than ugly ones, though both are valuable in ecosystems.

    When is a model organism better and when is the genomic field being cripped by bias and stereotypes?

    Background

    The researchers analyzed all the genome research projects in operation-or projected to launch-and found that 51% of known eukaryotic lineages are not yet represented or studied at a genomic level.

    Genomic database holdings are heavily biased against complex single cell organisms, particularly the Rhizaria, Amoebozoa and heterotrophic Stramenopiles lineages.

    The study also analyzed the five largest eukaryotic culture collections, and determined that up to 25% of the described eukaryotic lineages have no representatives in culture.


     "We're still mostly analyzing the same well-known eukaryotic groups: animals, fungi and plants, in large part because their utility is more obvious, they are closer to us as humans, and frankly because we can see them with the naked eye," says Javier del Campo, lead author of the paper and ecologist at the University of British Columbia. "But from a biological diversity and a genomic point of view this anthropocentric approach is irrelevant, and potentially holds us back. We're missing the opportunity to study most of the planet's eukaryotic diversity, which means we're missing the opportunity to study a host of alternative life strategies, novel metabolic pathways, new gene functions."