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Predicting Ecosystem Metaphenome from Community Metagenome: A Grand Challenge for Environmental Biology
  • Neo Martinez
Neo Martinez
Indiana University Bloomington

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Elucidating how an organism’s characteristics emerge from its DNA sequence has been one of the great triumphs of biology. This triumph has cumulated in sophisticated computational models that successfully predict how an organism’s detailed phenotype emerges from its specific genotype. Inspired by that effort’s vision and empowered by its methodologies, this Viewpoint describes a grand challenge to predict the biotic characteristics of an ecosystem, its metaphenome, from nucleic acid sequences of all the species in its community, its metagenome. Meeting this challenge would integrate rapidly advancing abilities of environmental nucleic acids (eDNA and eRNA) to identify organisms, their ecological interactions, and their evolutionary relationships with advances in mechanistic models of complex ecosystems. Addressing the challenge aims to help integrate ecology and evolutionary biology into a more unified and successfully predictive science that can better help describe and manage ecosystems and the services they provide to humanity.