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Don't Forget About These Guys

Studies of eukaryotes are biased in favor of multicellular organisms and their parasites, leading to a skewed view of eukaryotic biology, argue researchers from Spain, the US, and Canada in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The effect, they add, is even more pronounced when examining which genomes have been sequenced.

"Understanding the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic cell and the full diversity of eukaryotes is relevant to many biological disciplines," researchers led by Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, say. "However, our current understanding of eukaryotic genomes is extremely biased, leading to a skewed view of eukaryotic biology. "

They argue that a phylogeny-driven approach should be implemented to fill in the gaps and beef up the coverage and knowledge of underrepresented groups like heterotrophic Stramenopila, Amoebozoa, and Rhizaria.

At the same time, the researchers say that there should be an increased emphasis on developing new culture techniques to try to be able to grow even more organisms, as many current cannot be cultured. And as the researchers note, some species will remain recalcitrant to culturing, and so they suggest that singe-cell genomic technique may offer another approach to learn more about the diversity of eukaryotes.

"We're still mostly analyzing the same well-known eukaryotic groups: animals, fungi and plants, in large part because their utility is more obvious, they are closer to us as humans, and frankly because we can see them with the naked eye," says author from the University of British Columbia in a statement. "But from a biological diversity and a genomic point of view this anthropocentric approach is irrelevant, and potentially holds us back. We're missing the opportunity to study most of the planet's eukaryotic diversity, which means we're missing the opportunity to study a host of alternative life strategies, novel metabolic pathways, new gene functions."