Sep. 3rd, 2009

[personal profile] rho
Olivia Judson asks in her NYT column/blog ([syndicated profile] olivia_judson_feed):

If you could pick any organism to have its whole genome sequenced — what would it be?

She chose the coelacanth, which is a fine choice, but she got me thinking about other alternatives that I might choose, if I were in the position.

My first thought here was trichoplax, an amorphous little blob of an animal close to the base of the animal family tree, and with a relatively small genome to boot. I see that there’s a trichoplax project underway already though, so onto my next idea.

After a bit of thought I decided on the Tasmanian Devil for a few reasons:

1. Marsupial sequencing is much thinner on the ground than placental sequencing, and having more marsupials sequenced could be instructive when it comes to comparing us with our more distant mammalian cousins.

2. Devil Facial Tumour Disease is pretty terrifying. Or rather, the thought of a similar transmissible cancer that effected humans ever existing is terrifying. If we better understood the devils, we’d have a better chance of understanding their cancer.

3. There are conservation concerns here too, with DFTD threatening the devils as a species.

4. The Tasmanian devil is a charismatic and iconic animal that fires the public imagination. Science and conservation both desperately need to get the general public as interested as possible.

So what would you choose? And if you're an actual real biologist, why are my choices hopelessly naive and bad?

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