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Scientists are working on an ambitious project to store the genetic code of every living thing the planet.
The plan is to capture genome information for 1.5 million plants, animals and fungi found across Earth.
The incredible project is like a modern-day version of the Bible’s tale of Noah’s ark.
Noah is said to have helped preserve life during a cataclysmic flood by bringing two of every animal aboard a giant ship.
The consortium of 24 scientists working on the Earth BioGenome Project say collecting the genetic information in one place could “revolutionize our understanding of evolution.”
It’s expected to cost around $4.7 billion to complete the project.
Every living thing on Earth has a genome, a sort of genetic material made up of DNA.
The genome contains the instructions for making you — from the color of your hair to some aspects of the nature of your personality.
Scientists often talk about sequencing genomes.
That simply means working out the entire DNA sequence in a genome.
A human genome contains around 3 billion genetic identifiers and can be found in almost every cell in your body.
Sequencing the genome means you can effectively store the entire make-up of a living thing.
Right now, just 0.2 percent of the 1.5 million species scientists want to collect info on have had their genomes sequenced.
So it’s going to take a huge amount of time to get the job done – researchers estimate it’ll take at least a decade.
And the data – which will be available to scientists around the world – will take up more than 200 petabytes of digital storage capacity.
That’s the same as 625 million hour-long TV programs downloaded from the BBC iPlayer app.
“For the first time in history, it is possible to efficiently sequence the genomes of all known species,” the scientists explained in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The reasons for undertaking such an ambitious project are many,” said the aptly named Gene Robinson, a University of Illinois professor helping to lead the project.
“Genomics has helped scientists develop new medicines and new sources of renewable energy, feed a growing population, protect the environment and support human survival and well-being.
“The Earth BioGenome Project will give us insight into the history and diversity of life and help us better understand how to conserve it.”
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