Thursday, March 15, 2007

We are family

This week's Nature is a special issue for Linnaeus' 300th birthday, and I've got a feature($) in it looking at what genomics has done for the Linnaean project, in terms of working out the tree of life (and what evolutionary biology can do for genomics). The field is called phylogenomics. One of the surprising things I found when researching this was how uncertain things still are - we have no idea how many of the animal phyla relate to one another, for example.

I'm also talking with Henry Nicholls and Kerri Smith about this on the Nature podcast, recorded at the Natural History Museum in London. Henry has a feature about Linnaeus' raccoon, and has achieved full-spectrum science media dominance by also having a feature($) on metagenomics in today's New Scientist.

Jonathan Eisen's blog is a good place to find out about both phylo- and metagenomics.

1 comment:

Jonathan Eisen said...

I personally am not surprised that we are still trying to figure out how the animal phyla are related. Reasons I am not surprised include: (1) we actually have very poor genomic sampling across the animal tree, (2) the divergence of the phyla was a long time ago ... mind you not as long as some of the bacterial phyla I work on, but it was still a long time ago. This means that there is an enormous amount of noise present, due to all the vagaries of evolution that have happened since the divergence, (3) methods to analyze genome-scale data are in their infancy (although Philippe is the person who is doing this better than anyone else).

I think there is hope that we will have much better resolution of some questions concerning deep evolution, but I think it will have to wait a few years until we have a few 1000 animal genomes.