Perspectives from the Avian Phylogenomics Project: Questions that Can Be Answered with Sequencing All Genomes of a Vertebrate Class.
The rapid pace of advances in genome technology, with concomitant reductions in cost, makes it feasible that one day in our lifetime we will have available extant genomes of entire classes of species, including vertebrates. I recently helped cocoordinate the large-scale Avian Phylogenomics Project, which collected and sequenced genomes of 48 bird species representing most currently classified orders to address a range of questions in phylogenomics and comparative genomics. The consortium was able to answer questions not previously possible with just a few genomes. This success spurred on the creation of a project to sequence the genomes of at least one individual of all extant ∼10,500 bird species. The initiation of this project has led us to consider what questions now impossible to answer could be answered with all genomes, and could drive new questions now unimaginable. These include the generation of a highly resolved family tree of extant species, genome-wide association studies across species to identify genetic substrates of many complex traits, redefinition of species and the species concept, reconstruction of the genomes of common ancestors, and generation of new computational tools to address these questions. Here I present visions for the future by posing and answering questions regarding what scientists could potentially do with available genomes of an entire vertebrate class.
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