by Gert Wörheide
Much of the world’s biodiversity to have evolved over the last 600+ million years of the Earth’s history is composed of animals, and by far the greatest evolutionary diversity of animals can be found among the invertebrates, a non-monophyletic assemblage of organisms without backbones. Many of those are unique to marine and aquatic ecosystems. Many invertebrates are of ecological, socio-economic, and industrial importance; for example, corals build coral reefs, bees pollinate crops, oysters and other molluscs are valuable food, and several drugs have already been developed from sponges and cone snails. Although invertebrates make up over 95% of all metazoan species, their genomes are a relatively unexplored resource and only a few model species have their genomes fully sequenced and analysed.
To increase the phylogenetic breadth of sequenced invertebrate genomes, the Global Invertebrate Genome Alliance (GIGA) was initiated in 2013 with the intent of forming a collaborative network for supporting various aspects of genome sequencing of a large taxonomic spectrum. GIGA emphasizes collaboration, common standards, and training in genomics, and holds international workshops (2013: Ft Lauderdale, USA; 2015 Munich, Germany; 2018 Curaçao, Netherland Antilles) to achieve its mission.
To reflect the breadth of GIGA’s mission, a newly launched PLOS Collection, GIGA: Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance research, brings together a diverse selection of research curated by Guest Editor Gert Wörheide, member of the GIGA Steering Committee and a Chair of the GIGA Working Group on Taxa Descriptions. The initial selection of papers highlights Placozoans, Bdelloid rotifers, the Farrer’s scallop (Chlamys farreri), the freshwater snail Biomphalaria glabrata, the owl Limpet Lottia gigantean, the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica, the Mediterranean mollusc Mytilus galloprovincialis and much more. PLOS welcome submissions to this Collection that reflect GIGA’s primary goals.
GIGA is a collaborative network of diverse scientists set up to tackle major challenges (e.g., species selection, sample collection and storage, sequence assembly, annotation, analytical tools) associated with genome/transcriptome sequencing across a large taxonomic spectrum. It aims to promote standards that will facilitate comparative approaches to invertebrate genomics and collaborations across the international scientific community. Visit http://giga-cos.org/ to find out more.
Featured images: Clockwise from top left. Biomphalaria glabrata, credit pntd.0000267; Amphimedon queenslandica, credit pone.0001031; Rotaria macrura, credit Michael Plewka via pbio.2004830; Trichoplax adhaerens & Hoilungia hongkongensis, credit pbio.2005359.