Wellcome Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited
Darwin Tree of Life Project

Darwin Tree of Life Project

The Darwin Tree of Life Project, led by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, plans to read the genomes of all known species of animals, plants, fungi and protists in Britain and Ireland

About the Darwin Tree of Life Project

The Earth is experiencing the “sixth great extinction”, an event that threatens the biodiversity upon which human society depends. As part of global initiatives to use genomics to reveal and understand biodiversity, and thus contribute to conservation and mitigation of the effects of catastrophic change, the Sanger Institute has initiated the Tree of Life programme. The Darwin Tree of Life project is one of the programme’s key activities.

The Tree of Life programme is collaborating with the Natural History Museum London, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, The Marine Biological Association, The Earlham Institute, The University of Oxford and its Wytham Woods field station, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Cambridge, EMBL-EBI and others to sequence to high quality the genomes of all eukaryotic species in Britain and Ireland.

Together we will collect and identify specimens, extract and sequence DNA and RNA, and assemble and annotate the genomes of the approximately 70,000 species with which we share these islands. We will make the data openly available for re-use in biological research, conservation, biotechnology and beyond.

The project is currently funded through the Sanger Institute core programme budget, and a major Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award to the DToL Partnership. The 30-month Phase I of Darwin project began in November 2019, and aims to sequence the first 2000 species, representing half of all the families of organisms present in these islands.

Mark Blaxter and Alex Twyford (University of Edinburgh) recently spoke to BioPod about the DToL partnership- a link to the episode can be found below:

BioPod (University of Edinburgh)- Darwin Tree of Life Episode


Suggest a species to be sequenced by the Darwin Tree of Life Project


The Darwin Tree of Life project will eventually sequence all described eukaryotic species in Britain and Ireland, but we’d like community input into which of these should be done first. A list of species for which sequencing is already underway can be explored at https://tolqc.cog.sanger.ac.uk/index.html. The form at https://tinyurl.com/dtol-suggest allows you to propose your priorities!

Thank you for participating.


If you need help or have any queries, please contact us using the details below.

Sanger people

Photo of Professor Mark Blaxter

Professor Mark Blaxter

Programme Lead for Tree of Life Programme and Senior Group Leader

Photo of Dr Mara Lawniczak

Dr Mara Lawniczak

Senior Group Leader

Photo of Dr Richard Durbin

Dr Richard Durbin

Associate Faculty

Photo of Dr Kerstin Howe

Dr Kerstin Howe

Head of Production Genomics

Photo of Dr Matt Berriman

Dr Matt Berriman

Senior Group Leader

Photo of Dr Shane A. McCarthy

Dr Shane A. McCarthy

Tree of Life Assembly Team Lead