Scientists release hundreds of bird genomes

Many of the newly sequenced bird genomes were obtained using tissue samples preserved at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s Avian Genetic Resources Collection. Credit: Chip Clark/Smithsonian

Scientists from more than 100 institutions around the world have released genomic data for 363 bird species representing nearly all avian families. The species include widespread birds like the domestic chicken to rare birds like the Henderson crake, which lives on only one small island in the Pacific. The release, which appears in the Nov. 11 issue of the journal Nature, is due to the work of the Bird 10,000 Genomes Project, or B10K, an international collaboration organized by researchers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the Kunming Institute of Zoology, the Institute of Zoology in Beijing, the University of Copenhagen, The Rockefeller University, BGI-Shenzen, Curtin University (Perth), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum of Denmark, which aims to sequence and share the genome of every avian species on the planet.

“B10K is probably the single most important project ever conducted in the study of birds,” said Gary Graves, curator of birds at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “We’re not only hoping to learn about the phylogenetic relationships among the major branches of the tree of life of birds, but we’re providing an enormous amount of comparative data for the study of the evolution of vertebrates and life itself.”

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