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'What Kind of Reference Is a Reference?'

In part one of his series on the existence of the human genome, Penn State researcher Ken Weiss talks about how "type specimens" chosen to represent entire species are arbitrary, especially considering how variable the species they represent actually are. In this way, he argued, "the human genome does not exist."

In part two of the series at The Mermaid's Tale blog, Weiss says perhaps reference sets are the best way to deal with the variability of species being studied, rather than one type sequence that is continually being revised, as the human genome is. But that also comes with its own set of problems. "What would be included in that set, and how many different sequences? If we want a road map, strictly as a reference for comparing sequences, how would a set be different from a single type specimen?" Weiss asks. "If we had a set of sequences, they would somehow capture both the typical elements and their variability, and these are vital to understanding both gene function and evolution."