So I was minding my own bloggy business the other day and ran across a link at the John Hawks weblog to the discussion we were having the other day about press announcements pre-empting publishing. While reading, I came across this gem:
I think genomics has come to an inflection point -- organisms whose genomes are obviously of some utility, but which have not yet been subject of a whole-genome sequencing project, are getting scarce. It's not enough to sequence a genome, if you want to do glamor science. You have to have some, you know, science in there -- pushing theoretical understanding in some way.
I was going to leave a comment there, but it's one of those comment-free monoblogues, so we can discuss this here instead. Whereas I agree with the second part about needing to find something interesting in a genome and do a thorough analysis to get it into a glamor journal, the first part is what made me stop and say "WUT?" This is the kind of stuff that drives me nuts, as I have mentioned before because what is really meant is that we're running out of 'interesting' animal genomes to sequence. If you ask me, we hit that point a while back, but there are a shit-ton of interesting genomes out there we have virtually no idea about.
Depending on who you believe*, there are probably 5-7 'supergroups' into which all eukaryotes can be classified. Of those groups, 2 (or 3, again, based on classification scheme) have not a single published genome sequence and many major lineages within those groups are also unrepresented. We have few or no genomes to use when investigating some of the major innovations in eukaryotic evolution. We know virtually nothing about ecologically important (and truly bizarre) organisms, like dinoflagellates, at the genomic level. To say that interesting genomes are getting scarce is to admit that your view is "if it ain't animal, it's crap", which is a pretty sad statement for a biologist.
I'm not suggesting that we all go out and find a bizarre beast to work on, but simply that we allow for the possibility that there is important science happening outside of animals (and even plants, on a bad day). There is even the chance (though not a requirement) that the discoveries in Other organisms could advance the science in animals. You never know what unusual cell might change the way we look at fundamental cellular processes.
Hey there, I'm Tetrahymena. We probably haven't met, but there have been dozens of critical discoveries made using me as a study subject, including Nobel Prize winning research catalytic RNA and telomerase. But, you know, whatever. Oh, did I mention I have two nuclei that are different forms of essentially the same information, but function completely differently? Other than all that, I'm boring as hell.
*The fact that there is active debate on the major groups of eukaryotic organisms should be half decent evidence that we need to more broadly sample organisms rather than sequencing 1000 of the same genus.