Chris Amemiya, University of Washington
Genome assemblies are being reported for large numbers of plant and animal species and thousands will be generated over the course of the next few years. However, many genome papers submitted today are largely formulaic and descriptive, and the biological content in these reports is often embarrassingly low and wildly over-interpreted. Genomics can only take us so far without proper authentication via empirical biology. Here, I shall discuss some recent genome efforts in my lab whereby novel features of respective genomes can be exploited to learn about interesting and hitherto uninvestigated biological problems. My thesis is that, while comparisons of the “known” genetic components between species are important and necessary, many salient evo-devo insights will be gotten only when specifically looking for, and investigating, the differences. I will give a couple of examples, including one where we discovered a new molecular mechanism for building a vertebrate immune system and one that describes our recent finding of vertebrate chitin, which we posit to be important for structural roles but also which serve as mediators for cellular and developmental programming.