25 species revealed for 25 Genomes Project

Blackberry to robin, bush cricket to brown trout - the 25 species all reside in the UK

25 species revealed for 25 Genomes Project

25 Genomes for 25 Years
All 25 species that will be sequenced by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to celebrate 25 years have been decided, following the results of the public vote for the final five.

To commemorate the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute turning 25 in 2018, the Institute and its collaborators* are sequencing 25 new genomes of species in the UK**. The final five species have now been chosen by thousands of school children and members of the public around the globe, who participated in the 25 Genomes Project online vote.

The project could reveal why some brown trout migrate to the open ocean, whilst others don’t, or tell us more about the magneto receptors in robins’ eyes that allow them to ‘see’ the magnetic fields of the Earth. It could also shed light on why Red Squirrels are vulnerable to the squirrel pox virus, yet Grey Squirrels can carry and spread the virus without becoming ill.
All of the results will be made publically available and will lead to future studies to understand the biodiversity of the UK and aid the conservation and understanding of these species.

The Sanger Institute was founded in 1993 by Professor Sir John Sulston as part of the Human Genome Project. The Institute made the largest single contribution*** to the gold- standard sequence of the first human genome, which was published in 2003.

A genome is an organism’s complete set of genetic instructions written in DNA. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build that organism and allow it to grow and develop.

Since the landmark completion of the human genome, the Sanger Institute has become a globally recognised leader in the field of genomics. Many more important reference genomes have already been sequenced – from the mouse and zebrafish genomes to the pig, gorilla, mosquito and many others. Beyond animal species, infectious diseases and bacteria also feature prominently on the list of reference genomes, from salmonella and MRSA to chlamydia and malaria. All of these have offered up important insights about these species in health and disease.

Now, the Sanger Institute and its partners are comprehensively sequencing 25 species from the UK. This project is a small contribution to a much larger undertaking, where scientists from around the world are coming together to form a plan to sequence all life on Earth.

This project has been made possible by PacBio® long-read sequencing technology, which generates high-quality genomes. The Institute is partnering with PacBio and other leaders in the technology sector, 10x Genomics and Illumina, to create the most comprehensive view of these genomes.

The high-quality genomes will open doors for scientists to use this information, and researchers could discover how UK species are responding to environmental pressures, and what secrets they hold in their genetics that enables them to flourish, or flounder.

The 25 species are divided into five categories depending on the qualities they share: Flourishing, species on the up in the UK; Floundering, endangered and declining species; Dangerous, invasive and harmful species; Iconic, quintessentially British species that we all recognise; Cryptic, species that are out of sight or indistinguishable from others based on looks alone.

The 25 species that will have their genomes sequenced are:

Flourishing species:
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Ringlet Butterfly
  • Roesel’s Bush-Cricket
  • Oxford Ragwort
Floundering species:
  • Red Squirrel
  • Water Vole
  • Turtle Dove
  • Northern February Red Stonefly
Dangerous species:
  • Giant Hogweed
  • Indian Balsam
  • King Scallop, also known as Great Scallop, Coquilles Saint-Jacques
  • New Zealand Flatworm
Iconic species:
  • Golden Eagle
  • Blackberry
  • European Robin
  • Red Mason Bee
Cryptic species:
  • Brown trout
  • Common Pipistrelle Bat
  • Carrington’s Featherwort
  • Summer truffle
Five species chosen by the public:
  • Common Starfish
  • Fen Raft Spider
  • Lesser Spotted Catshark
  • Asian Hornet
  • Eurasian Otter

“Twenty five years ago the field of genomics was a budding idea and its implications only dreamed of. Today the reality of genomics and biodata is that it is transforming our understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases, ranging from cancer and heart disease to malaria and infections. The science and technology that is driving this era of discovery is accelerating our understanding of the human body, but also of the world around us.

"This project has come after many thoughtful conversations around the world with regard to how many of the species on our planet could be sequenced in the coming decades – in principle, all of them. We are embarking on our contribution to sequencing all life on Earth.”

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

“Through sequencing these 25 genomes, scientists will gain a better understanding of UK species, how they arrived here, their evolution, and how different species are adapting to a changing environment. The results could reveal hidden truths in these species, and will enable the scientific community to understand how our world is constantly changing and evolving around us. We want to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sanger Institute in a special ‘Sanger’ way, and I am excited to see how the 25 Genomes Project unfolds.”

Dr Julia Wilson, Associate Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

“Giving the public the opportunity to choose which species have their genomes sequenced in the 25 Genomes Project has brought new perspectives to the project. We are delighted to see that so many people and school children across the UK and beyond have actively engaged in online chats with the scientists and voted for the final five species.”

Ken Skeldon, Head of Public Engagement at the Wellcome Genome Campus

"The Natural History Museum is proud to be collaborating with the Sanger Institute to celebrate their 25th birthday and also to celebrate the advances that molecular techniques such as genome sequencing can bring to the study of UK wildlife. The 80 million specimens we care for, from around the world, hold a wealth of genetic information that enables us to conduct innovative research, addressing global challenges. A focus on UK biodiversity with cutting edge technology is particularly welcome."

Tim Littlewood, Head of Life Sciences at the Natural History Museum

Notes to Editors
Our partners

*This project is a collaborative effort involving many institutions. Our partners include:

  • Natural History Museum, London
  • Pacific Biosciences (PacBio)
  • The National Trust
  • The Wildlife Trust
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • Edinburgh University
  • 10x Genomics
  • Illumina
  • Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability (ACES)
  • Animal and Plant Health Agency
  • Buglife
  • Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)
  • James Hutton Institute
  • Mycorrhizal Systems Ltd
  • Natural History Museum of Geneva
  • Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)
  • Orthoptera & Allied Insects
  • Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • University College Dublin
  • University of Lincoln
  • Wellcome Genome Campus Grounds Team
  • Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement
  • Wildwood Trust

**For more information on the 25 Genomes Project, visit http://www.sanger.ac.uk/science/collaboration/25-genomes-25-years

The Human Genome Project

***Of the 23 human pairs of chromosomes, eight were sequenced by researchers at the Sanger Institute and their collaborators.

To mark 25 years of the Sanger Institute, the institute will also construct a 25th anniversary garden, full of medicinal plants, and plant a very special apple tree that was grown from Isaac Newton’s own apple seeds.


This project is supported by Wellcome. The public engagement activity with ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’ was co-ordinated by Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement.

Selected Websites
Timeline: Organisms that have had their genomes sequencedFactsTimeline: Organisms that have had their genomes sequenced
To develop techniques for DNA sequencing, scientists began by sequencing the genomes of small, simple organisms. As techniques improved it became possible to sequence the genomes of more complex organisms, such as the human genome. Now, we have a large catalogue of genomes that have been sequenced that we can study and compare.

How are sequenced genomes stored and shared?FactsHow are sequenced genomes stored and shared?
After a genome has been sequenced, assembled and annotated it needs to be shared in a format that is easily and freely accessible to all. This can be done via a database called a genome browser.

How do you identify the genes in a genome?FactsHow do you identify the genes in a genome?
After the sections of DNA sequence have been assembled into a complete genome sequence we need to identify where the genes and key features are, but how do we do this?

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