Darwinian genomics and diversity in the tree of life

Taylorlyn Stephan, Shawn M. Burgess, Hans Cheng, Charles G. Danko, Clare A. Gill, Erich D. Jarvis, Klaus Peter Koepfli, James E. Koltes, Eric Lyons, Pamela Ronald, Oliver A. Ryder, Lynn M. Schriml, Pamela Soltis, Sue VandeWoude, Huaijun Zhou, Elaine A. Ostrander, Elinor K. Karlsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Genomics encompasses the entire tree of life, both extinct and extant, and the evolutionary processes that shape this diversity. To date, genomic research has focused on humans, a small number of agricultural species, and established laboratory models. Fewer than 18,000 of ∼2,000,000 eukaryotic species (<1%) have a representative genome sequence in GenBank, and only a fraction of these have ancillary information on genome structure, genetic variation, gene expression, epigenetic modifications, and population diversity. This imbalance reflects a perception that human studies are paramount in disease research. Yet understanding how genomes work, and how genetic variation shapes phenotypes, requires a broad view that embraces the vast diversity of life. We have the technology to collect massive and exquisitely detailed datasets about the world, but expertise is siloed into distinct fields. A new approach, integrating comparative genomics with cell and evolutionary biology, ecology, archaeology, anthropology, and conservation biology, is essential for understanding and protecting ourselves and our world. Here, we describe potential for scientific discovery when comparative genomics works in close collaboration with a broad range of fields as well as the technical, scientific, and social constraints that must be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2115644119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 25 2022


  • Biodiversity
  • Comparative genomics
  • Evolution
  • Genomics
  • Natural models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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