Sunday, March 4, 2012

YAGS, and why it is good for natural history.

I recently came across the term YAGS (Yet Another Genome Syndrome) in reference to the iceman genome sequence. I originally empathized with the sentiment, that genome sequencing has been done, and that the hype over new genome sequences is unfounded. But I have since revised my position.

Ultimately, YAGS is a sign that people are bored with genome sequencing, that it is no longer SHINY and new use of technology. It has become 'cataloging'.

This excites me.

If genome sequences have become a "mundane" descriptive enterprise rather than an experimental use of technology, it has become ideographic science. It has become natural history. Genome description, then, continues as an exercise on par with morphological description, something with which all taxonomists are familiar. With soon to be 4th generation nanopore sequencing, I could in a few hours have the sequence to any of those insects which have been ignored by geneticists. I could have a sequence, for around 900 USD, of any caddisfly I wanted. What has become boring for the futurists is exciting new ground for naturalists. Because it is when a large mass of genomes are assembled, when these individual papers build on each other, then patterns will become evident.

Another tool in the toolbox, nearly ours for the taking.

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