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Nature Studies Include Suite of Mammalian Genomes, Progressive Cactus Genome Alignment Program, More

Members of the Zoonomia Project report genome assemblies for 131 species of eutherian mammals, the majority of which were previously uncharacterized, in this week's Nature. The team also presents a whole-genome alignment for 240 phylogenetically diverse species representing over 80 percent of mammalian families, uncovering signals of evolutionary selection at high resolution and generating insights from individual reference genomes. The researchers highlight priority areas for large-scale comparative genomics programs including the prioritization of sample collection, accessible and scalable tools for computational analysis, and rapid data sharing. "Numerous large-scale genome-sequencing efforts are now underway including the Earth BioGenome Project, Genome 10K, the Vertebrate Genomes Project, Bat 1K, Bird 10K, and DNA Zoo," they write. "Through global scientific collaborations, and by making genomic resources available and accessible to all research communities, we can ensure that the legacy of genomics is not a digital archive of lost species." GenomeWeb has more on this and the Bird 10K project findings, here.

A multiple-genome alignment program for comparative genomics analysis is published by scientists from the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute in Nature this week. Called Progressive Cactus, the program improves upon the highly accurate but difficult-to-scale Cactus aligner and enables the reference-free alignment of tens to thousands of large vertebrate genomes while maintaining high alignment quality. In the study, the scientists report the results from an alignment of more than 600 amniote genomes, the largest multiple vertebrate genome alignment created to date.

By analyzing genetic predictors of educational attainment and intelligence test performance, a team led by Aarhus University scientists show that these two heritable traits can help predict who will likely vote in elections. In the study, which appears in Nature Human Behavior, the researchers used data from nearly 47,000 samples in the Danish iPSYCH case-cohort study, including a nationally representative sample and a sample of individuals who are particularly vulnerable to political alienation due to psychiatric conditions. Combining validated individual-level turnout data from the administrative records at the polling station, genetic correlations, and Mendelian randomization, the investigators demonstrate that "the genetic variance that predicts educational attainment and intelligence test performance, respectively, also predicts individual differences in voter turnout. This integration of the social science and genetic paradigms of voter turnout reveals new linkages between social and political inequalities in the general population and in the subpopulations that are particularly vulnerable to political exclusion due to psychiatric diagnoses," they write.