Species whose genomes have been sequenced are generally used for experiments in physiology and in developmental and cell biology, but rarely in ecology. Scientists are eager to exploit genomic technologies and genomic experimental approaches that have already revolutionized research in the human health sciences, with the goal of diagnosing the state of aquatic environments.
Despite their common name, water fleas are not insects but crustaceans, like lobsters and crabs. Daphnia is the first crustacean genome to be sequenced. Information from its genome will help biologists make sense of similarities and differences among the intensively studied genetic models of insects, which are evolutionary relatives of crustaceans.
"The genome sequences are being completed for several insects because they are important model organisms -- like fruit flies -- or because they are important in disease or agriculture," said Jeffrey Boore, head of the evolutionary genomics program at the Joint Genome Institute. "And the Daphnia genome sequence will illuminate all of this by allowing us to infer the ground state from which the insect genomes evolved."