Today's publication in Nature of the genetic1 blueprint2 for the zebra finch3（斑胸草雀） marks 10 years of success for the Ensembl project in helping4 researchers to navigate5 the genomes of a Noah's Ark of species. Ensembl, a genome annotation6（注释，注解） system co-developed and jointly8（共同地，连带地） run by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, played a major part in finding the genes9 and other functionally10 important features in the zebra finch genome. For zebra finch, only the second bird to have its genome fully11 sequenced after the chicken, this interpretation12 of the genetic code has enabled the sequencing consortium（财团，合伙） to identify genes expressed in the zebra finch brain that may be responsible for vocalising（发声） messages: zebra finches communicate by singing whereas（鉴于，反之） chickens cannot.
"Trying to navigate a genome that has not been annotated13（有注释的，带注解的） with important features such as genes and regulatory regions is a little bit like trying to read a map missing all the labels," explains Paul Flicek, joint7 head of Ensembl and leader of the Vertebrate Genomics team at EMBL-EBI. "Without this annotation, the data gathered from sequencing projects would remain undecipherable（难辨认的，破译不出的） ."
Ensembl, which was originally created as a means of cataloguing the genes in the human genome, now contains the complete genetic codes of more than 50 animals. In addition to zebra finch, Ensembl has unravelled14（阐明，解决） the genomes of organisms ranging in complexity15 from the humble16 nematode（线虫） worm through the duck billed platypus17（鸭嘴兽） to ourselves.
"Genome analysis and comparison is key to linking genes to function and explaining why species differ from each other," says Steve Searle, joint head of Ensembl and of Vertebrate Annotation at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute "In addition to helping us know more about evolutionary18 relationships and genetic diversity, it also provides the tools to tackle disease at the genetic level."
"Over 10 years Ensembl has become part of the infrastructure19 of biological research," says Tim Hubbard, Head of Informatics at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "Looking back it's hard to imagine research before genomes and genome browsers20."
Combining information held in Ensembl with the related Ensembl Genomes resource for the genomes of bacteria, fungi21（真菌） , plants, metazoa（后生动物，复细胞动物） and protists（原生动物） launched by EMBL-EBI last year, every sequenced genome provides another jigsaw22（线锯，镂花锯） piece in cataloguing the genetic diversity of life.