Charlotte Wright / Wellcome Sanger Institute

Project Psyche

Project Psyche is a multinational effort to sequence the genomes of all 11,000 species of Lepidoptera - moths and butterflies - in Europe. Building on the Tree of Life Programme's expertise on similar biodiversity genomics projects, Project Psyche is expected to complete the 11,000 genomes in five years.

For the latest genome progress, activities and other news from Project Psyche, visit the project website.

Why sequence all species of butterflies and moths in Europe

The insect order Lepidoptera – the moths and butterflies – includes approximately one tenth of all named species on planet Earth. Their success is reflected in their numbers and their diverse phenotypes. They deliver key ecosystem services such as pollination, are important herbivores in natural and agricultural ecosystems, and form the major food sources of many other species. Lepidoptera are key organisms for monitoring biodiversity, for tracking the impacts of climate change, and for understanding the processes of evolution.

About 11,000 species of Lepidoptera are native to the continent of Europe. They include widespread pests of agricultural ecosystems and also rare and endangered species with limited distributions. Many are used as indicators of health and conservation status of ecosystems, and Europe has a thriving community of researchers studying lepidopteran ecology, evolution and genetics.

High-quality, chromosomally-complete genome sequences are critical to the understanding of lepidopteran biology, as they allow detailed and authoritative description of the genetic underpinnings of key phenotypes. They also provide the essential data for large-scale evolutionary and ecological investigation which will transform our understanding of lepidopteran biology and inform conservation efforts.

To support all these areas of work and to deliver a step-change in our understanding of European Lepidoptera, Project Psyche will galvanise a multinational effort to sequence and analyse the genomes of all species in Europe. Project Psyche has created a pan-European community of lepidopterists providing a platform for coordination of collection and sequencing efforts and knowledge sharing of lepidopteran taxonomy, biology and genomic analyses, including joint fieldwork trips to collect specimens and workshops to analyse the genomes.

We call this Project Psyche, after the Greek goddess of the soul – who is frequently depicted with butterfly wings, and is renowned for her beauty.

If you would like to join our community, register your interest here.

Sanger people

Photo of Charlotte Wright

Charlotte Wright

PhD Student

Photo of Dr Joana Isabel Meier

Dr Joana Isabel Meier

Royal Society University Research Fellow and Group Leader

Photo of Professor Mark Blaxter

Professor Mark Blaxter

Programme Lead for Tree of Life Programme and Senior Group Leader

Affiliated Sites


Psyche Website