What we're reading: The trouble with novelty and the Norway spruce genome

In the journals
Arnqvist, G. 2013. Editorial rejects? Novelty, schnovelty! Trends in Ecology & Evolution 5: 2012–2013. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.05.007.

Firstly, because an assessment of novelty critically depends upon a reader’s knowledge and perspective, the degree of novelty is arguably more demanding than many other criteria that can be used in editorial assessments. Because single associate editors cannot be experts in every subdomain, which is required for an informed and fair assessment of novelty, this increases the rate of poorly informed and mistaken editorial decisions.

Nystedt, B., Street, N.R., Wetterbom, A., Zuccolo, A., Lin, Y.-C., Scofield, D.G., et al. 2013. The Norway spruce genome sequence and conifer genome evolution. Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature12211.

Here we present the draft assembly of the 20-gigabase genome of Norway spruce (Picea abies), the first available for any gymnosperm. The number of well-supported genes (28,354) is similar to the .100 times smaller genome of Arabidopsis thaliana, and there is no evidence of a recent whole-genome duplication in the gymnosperm lineage. Instead, the large genome size seems to result from the slow and steady accumulation of a diverse set of long-terminal repeat transposable elements, possibly owing to the lack of an efficient elimination mechanism.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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