Aquatic Insects Are Dramatically Underrepresented in Genomic Research
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84062, USA
Data Science Lab, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20002, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 August 2020 / Revised: 1 September 2020 / Accepted: 3 September 2020 / Published: 5 September 2020
The genome is the basic evolutionary unit underpinning life on Earth. Knowing its sequence, including the many thousands of genes coding for proteins in an organism, empowers scientific discovery for both the focal organism and related species. Aquatic insects represent 10% of all insect diversity, can be found on every continent except Antarctica, and are key components of freshwater ecosystems. However, aquatic insect genome biology lags dramatically behind that of terrestrial insects. If genomic effort was spread evenly, one aquatic insect genome would be sequenced for every ~9 terrestrial insect genomes. Instead, ~24 terrestrial insect genomes have been sequenced for every aquatic insect genome. A lack of aquatic genomes is limiting research progress in the field at both fundamental and applied scales. We argue that the limited availability of aquatic insect genomes is not due to practical limitations—small body sizes or overly complex genomes—but instead reflects a lack of research interest. We call for targeted efforts to expand the availability of aquatic insect genomic resources to empower future research.