invertebrata1

The above pie chart shows the relative proportions of described species in various groups of organisms.  As we can see, most species are invertebrate animals.  Things like snails, flatworms, spiders, sponges, and insects.

Now compare that slice of pie to the proportion of GenBank sequences that represent invertebrates:

genbank Yes, that thin blue wedge is all we’ve got.  While most mammal species have had at least a gene or two sequenced, the vast majority of non-vertebrate species have yet to meet a pipettor.   Entire families of insects haven’t received even a cursory genetic study.

Of course, we make great progress with the efficiency of focusing our efforts on a small number of model organisms.  But surely there’s an opportunity cost of putting all our eggs in the mammal basket.  What about the rest of life?