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Project Launches to Generate Sequences of Extant Bird Species

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Avian Phylogenomics Consortium announced on Thursday the launch of the Bird 10,000 genomes (B10K) project to generate representative draft genome sequences from all existing bird species.

The project, announced in Nature, is expected to last five years.

B10K builds on a previous ordinal-level project, which provided the first proof of concept for carrying out large-scale sequencing of multiple representative species across a vertebrate class, as well as a glimpse into the types of discoveries that can be made with such genomes, the consortium said. The ordinal-level project was led by researchers from BGI, the University of Copenhagen, and Duke University and included scientists from more than 20 counties who sequenced and/or collected the genomes from 48 bird species representing nearly all orders. 

Based on the success of that project, the consortium is expanding the understanding of bird genomes and extending the findings into multiple disciplines. B10K, it added, will be the first attempt to sequence the genomes of all living species of a vertebrate class. 

The consortium noted that there are about 10,500 living bird species, constituting the most speciose class of terrestrial vertebrates. Additionally, birds are widely used as models of population genetic studies, as well as research in neurobiology, development, and animal conservation. "Clearly, ornithology has had and will continue to have a pronounced impact on both basic scientific research and on biosecurity of human society," the consortium said on a statement. 

Along with the three organizations that headed the ordinal-level project, four additional institutions have been added to the leadership of B10K — the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China; the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Science; the Smithsonian Institution; and the Center of Macroecology, Evolution, and Climate in Denmark. Experts on museum science, biogeography, and ecology will participate in the project, the consortium said. 

B10K is being carried out in three phases. In the first, genomic data for representative species of about 240 families is currently being collected. The second phase of the project, under which researchers are collecting specimens for 2,250 genera, and the last phase, which includes the collection of specimens for the remaining 8,000 species, are also underway, the consortium said.