There is an utterly confusing press release out today – Australian First: Kangaroo Genome Mapped:
Australian researchers are launching the world first detailed map of the kangaroo genome, completing the first phase of the kangaroo genomics project.
Why is it confusing?
Because we are used to seeing press officers and media botch the terms. They often use the words “map” and “sequence” interchangeably.
Mapping a genome means locating genes on chromosomes, i.e., you get to know where each gene is on each chromosome. For this, you do not need to know the sequences of any genes, and certainly not the sequences of stuff between and around the genes.
Sequencing a genome means figuring out the exact order of all nucleotides in the entire DNA of the organism.
Some people do the mapping. Some do the sequencing. Some map first, sequence second. Others sequence first, map later. Some sequence most of the genome, then map it in order to put the last finishing touches on the sequencing, i.e., making sure that all the fragments are ordered correctly.
What appears that the Australian team did is that they mapped the Tammar Wallaby genome first. They intend to sequence it next year.
The source of confusion is the press release which does not state this clearly. Usually a press release reports on the research that is already done and published. In this case, the press release mixes together TWO statements – a) the map has been finished, and b) the sequence is on its way next year. The first is done, the second is yet to be done.
RPM and T. Ryan Gregory are trying to grapple with it all.