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Science News: Mapping life on Earth

– G.A., Senior Editor

Genetic science has revolutionized research in a diverse range of biological and medical fields. One of the greatest achievements in science to date was the mapping of the human genome. The Human Genome Project represented the largest collaborative research efforts ever conducted and produced a map of all the genes in the human genome. In the footsteps of this groundbreaking success, a new and even more ambitious project has been launched.

The Earth BioGenome Project aims to map the genomes of all eukaryotic life on Earth over just a 10-year period and make the data available in an open digital repository. In contrast to similar genome-mapping projects that have sought to sequence the genome of a single species per genus or family, this project will strive to achieve the most detailed assessment possible of the evolutionary complexity of Earth’s species.

The researchers have set an optimistic timeline for this project as they fear that by 2050, up to 50% of the species on Earth today could become extinct. With every species that goes extinct, the biological secrets that are contained in its genome are lost.

The project’s leaders emphasize that the wealth of scientific knowledge that has been accumulated throughout human history has been produced using the knowledge of only a small fraction of the species on our planet. As a result, this ambitious project is expected to contribute not only to our understanding of how species evolved and the complexity of their ecosystems, but also our food security and medical science.

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