[Taxacom] Earth BioGenome Project in the news

KD Dijkstra KD.Dijkstra at naturalis.nl
Thu Nov 1 17:32:54 CDT 2018

Hi all,

I was just pondering the announcement when Tony's message came in. The
Earth BioGenome Project states that "we desperately need to catalogue life
on our planet now". Their solution is to spend 5 billion dollars on reading
the genomes of 1.5 million (described?) species.

I've lately developed the feeling that a new problem is arising on top of
the 'old' taxonomic impediment (i.e. the phenomenon that taxonomists can't
keep up with biodiversity's extent). We might call the new issue the
"taxonomic standoff": we can now generate so much data (specimen records on
GBIF, DNA-barcodes on BOLD, and now apparently millions of billions genomic
data) that there's a risk that remaining experts won't keep up with the
verification and eventually give up, making most of the effort redundant.
This occurs if investment in innovations that could (and indeed were
intended to) strengthen biodiversity expertise is so disproportionate that
it tips the balance between quantity and quality. The entire effort to
catalogue biodiversity would then effectively collapse under its own

So my questions to the taxonomic community are (1) whether such a
"taxonomic standoff" is indeed unfolding and (2) if taking a collective
stance relative to this latest initiative (which will make huge demands of
the community, but might benefit it too) would be a way to strengthen our

Cheers, KD


*Klaas-Douwe 'KD' B. Dijkstra*
Hon. Res. Assoc. Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
Rep. IUCN Invertebrate & Freshwater Conservation Subcommittees (Species
Survival Commission)

African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online <http://addo.adu.org.za/>
KD's personal page <http://science.naturalis.nl/dijkstra>

Sir David's Dragonfly (BBC television)
Changing lives: teaching for Tropical Biology Association
Congo Dragonfly Hunt (mini-documentary)

"Deadly mosquito" or "living freshwater"? (in Science)
Restore our sense of species (in Nature)
Sixty new dragonfly species from Africa
Handbook of African Dragonflies
Freshwater Biodiversity and Aquatic Insect Diversification
Consensus classification of dragonflies
Most complete damselfly phylogeny to date

On Thu, 1 Nov 2018 at 23:21, Tony Rees <tonyrees49 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Taxacomers,
> I heard a news item this morning in Australia regarding the Earth BioGenome
> Project which appears to be having some sort of launch around now.
> https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/researchers-launch-plan-sequence-66000-species-united-kingdom-s-just-start
> https://www.sanger.ac.uk/news/view/genetic-code-66000-uk-species-be-sequenced
> referring back to this April 2018 article:
> http://www.pnas.org/content/115/17/4325.long
> My take is that this is of relevance to the taxonomic community in a number
> of ways - e.g. to reveal cryptic species, other taxa that may in fact be
> the same, etc. etc. - as well as drawing heavily on the work of taxonomists
> to date (although a lot of the species-intensive inventorying is likely to
> be in the out years). I'd be interested to hear how others in the taxonomy
> world are viewing this...
> Regards to all - Tony
> Tony Rees, New South Wales, Australia
> https://about.me/TonyRees
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