“Giga-” is a prefix derived from Greek, meaning “giant.” In modern times, giga- refers to the large datasets and information as the billions of bytes we generate and store on our computers.
The “spineless” invertebrates comprise one of the earliest, and now largest branches of the tree of life, dating back more than 550 million years Many of these ancient animals (metazoans) are unique to marine and aquatic habitats and ecosystems. The invertebrates also comprise over 70% of all described metazoan species diversity, yet most of their genomes (complete hereditary material, DNA code) remain relatively unknown and understudied. In this context, a “Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance” (GIGA) of diverse scientists, has been formed in 2013 with the intent of growing a collaborative network that can address the major problems associated with genomic sequencing of a large taxonomic spectrum - sample collection and processing, data handling, sequence annotation, alignment and access, as well as intellectual property issues. Consequently, we also encourage the installment of standards and policies that will facilitate comparative approaches to invertebrate genomics. This website aims to provide a dynamic forum and information portal for the latest ideas on invertebrate genome research, researcher activities, data and resources related to GIGA and its principles.
Describing the wide functional and structural diversity of invertebrates requires an integrated approach that includes not only traditional biological sciences (e.g., anatomy, ecology, behavior, physiology, paleontology), but the burgeoning interdisciplinary efforts of genomics. Following on the success of the human genome project and the current progress of the vertebrate Genome 10K project (Genome 10K Community of Scientists, 2009), GIGA proposes to assemble or assist in the coordination and collection of samples spanning the broad spectrum of (non-insect/ non-nematode) invertebrate phylogenetic diversity suitable for whole-genome sequencing.
Invertebrates represent a compelling target for large-scale genomic enterprises for many reasons:
•Invertebrates (including the vast diversity of insects) encompass more than 70% of all known animal species biodiversity.
•Invertebrates,such as C. elegans worms and Drosophila flies, have long served as model organisms in genetics, physiology and embryology, providing keen insights into fundamental mechanisms of development, neurobiology, patterns of inheritance, diversification, and genome evolution.
•Many invertebrates also play key roles in ecosystems (e.g., corals, earthworms), human health (e.g., disease vectors), and are a major protein source for humans (e.g., many mollusks and crustaceans) with considerable economic impact.
•By better understanding the genomic diversity and make-up of these organisms, we can capitalize on such knowledge to enhance beneficial activities (e.g., food production, ecosystem health,biopharmaceuticals, biomimetic materials) and diminish detrimental activities (e.g., invasive species, decline of endangered species, biodiversity loss).
Two recent articles discussing basal invertebrate taxa were published in the popular press:
GIGA goes Global for workshop II
The second GIGA workshop recently convened March 22-24, 2015 and reiterated the purposes first articulated in 2013. More than 90 scientists and students from 23 countries around the world participated in the three day event hosted by Dr. Gert Wörheide’s team in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (http://www.en.uni-muenchen.de/…/2015/gen_codes_workshop.html). All provided further testimony to the Alliance’s goals: GIGA II provided a platform for networking and sharing of ideas in the rapidly evolving field of genomics. As in GIGA I, organismal and molecular biologists, bioinformaticists, chemists, professors, museum curators and students mingled in a supportive atmosphere. The diverse group shared common interests through their study of increasing volumes of genomic data and focusing on non-model eukaryotes without a backbone, ranging from cnidarians to insects, rotifers, tunicates. Student posters were presented. The diverse reasons and value of these studies has been previously documented, while GIGA workshop II highlighted how the field can naturally redefine itself due to rapid advances. Expert talks by invited speakers covered population genomics, epigenomics and methylation, genomic bridges to organismal phenotypes, metagenomic assemblies and microbiomes: http://www.en.palaeontologie.geowissenschaften.uni-muenchen.de/gigaii/tentative-program/index.html
Afterwards, individual breakout groups were again productive, and focused on remaining tasks: Updating the status of invertebrate genome projects, developing fundraising strategies, specific hypotheses to drive future genome research, novel bioinformatics tools, and creating data-sharing options (web portals and databases).
It was also announced that manuscripts written by the GIGA community of scientists can be submitted as part of a special PLOS collection for GIGA; http://www.ploscollections.org. More information on this opportunity, open to all, will be posted in the near future.
GIGA also launched a new email list serve - https://lists.lrz.de/mailman/listinfo/giga
Overall, the workshop and these events have reinvigorated GIGA.
Registration for the upcoming GIGA II workshop (22.-24.03.2015) in Munich is now open only for a waiting list at
following website; please continue to sign up and we will let you know if space opens up:
This workshop is open to all biologists who can contribute to discussions and ideas on how to best use current genomics technologies for a better understanding of various aspects of invertebrate biology, ecology, phylogeny, evolution, conservation etc.
Due to generous support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) we were able to assemble an excellent set of invited speakers (see attached tentative program) and keep registration costs low (100 Euros).
Attendance is currently limited to 75 participants to keep the workshop at a managble size. The link to register and tentative program is publicly available on the workshop website.
Seats will be given away on a 'first come - first serve' basis, so please make sure to fully register asap. A deadline for full payment of the registration is February 15, 2015.
We look forward to hopefully seeing many of you in Munich in March!
Dec 12, 2014, Washington DC: In association with the publication of a Special Issue of Science on Avian Genomics, The Grand Challenges Consortia are celebrating the launch of the new Smithsonian Institute for Biodiversity Genomics (BioGenomics).
Congratulations to Dr. Titus Brown for his recent Moore Foundation award: