Project Psyche

Lepidopteran genomes for Europe

Delivering Psyche

An open library of over 10,000 lepidopteran genomes

We plan to generate genome sequences for all species of Lepidoptera found in Europe over three phrases commencing in 2024.

For Phase 1 of Psyche the Tree of Life programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute will sequence and assemble to chromosomal completeness the genomes of 2,000 lepidopteran species. Many of these will derive from ongoing work in the Darwin Tree of Life Project. A small team of between 4 and 6 hubs will each supply at least 100 species from their collection activities across Europe for sequencing. We will prioritise sequencing for phylogenetic diversity across the order and deliver genomes for agricultural pests, ecological indicator species and threatened species.  We also aim to complete the genomes of all the ~500 European “butterflies” (Papilionoidea). During Phase 2 and 3, additional collectors and centres will collaborate in sequencing the remaining 8,000 species.

The completed genomes will be released openly to the European Nucleotide Archive for reuse by everyone. Each genome will be accompanied by a Genome Note acknowledging the contributions of collectors, taxonomists and the genome teams. Genome notes are published on the Tree of Life Programme’s gateway on the Wellcome Open Research website. We collect and sequence following the rigorous legal and ethical framework established by Tree of Life, including minimal sampling, strict adherence to local wildlife and biodiversity laws, and compliance with international regulations such as the Nagoya protocol and CITES.

Phase 1 caterpillar

2,000 species, focusing on phyletic diversity
2 years

Phase 2 chrysalis

5,000 species, with whole-ecosystem sampling in critical areas
3 years

Phase 3 imago

10,000 species, completing the Lepidoptera of Europe
5 years