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SuperMUC Helps Scientists to Resolve the Evolution of Insects

The 1K (1,000) Insect Transcriptome Evolution Project (1KITE)

Using HPC system SuperMUC of the Leibniz-Supercomputing Centre in Garching, scientists of the international 1KITE project successfully calculated the so-far largest molecular phylogenetic tree for insects in their pursuit to understand the evolution of insects, the most species rich group of animals world wide. Disentangling their evolution is essential for understanding how other forms of life evolved.

To reconstruct the phylogenetic tree, international researchers of the 1KITE project used modern DNA sequencing techniques. Various science groups around the world collected the DNA of 1,000 species of the most important groups of insects on the globe. The BGI–Shenzhen institute in China decoded 15,000 genes of each insect and translated the genetic information into the DNA of the genes which resulted in a collection of an enormous molecular dataset.

Using HPC system SuperMUC of the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre in Garching near Munich, the researchers compared the genetic information of the species to determine the degree of the genetic relations. The computing demands for this venture are huge: For a tree with only 18 species, there exist more than 190 Quadrillion possibilities of how they evolved. “The computing capacity of the entire world would not suffice to calculate the optimal filogenetic tree,” states Prof. Dr. Alexandros Stamatakis, head of the research group Scientific Computing at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS). He and his team thus investigated solutions to be able to process such huge amounts of data. Their efforts resulted in the development of novel software and algorithms which they successfully ran on SuperMUC. Being able to execute these calculations simultaneously on 32,000 processors, the researchers managed to drastically reduce the time to obtain the results, which are of substantial scientific importance.

The 1KITE Project: SuperMUC Helps Scientists to Resolve the Evolution of InsectsGreenhouse Camel Cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)
Copyright:  Dr. Oliver Niehuis, ZFMK, Bonn

official press release (German language)
official press release (English language)
HITS 1KITE Project Video on YouTube (German language)
HITS 1KITE Project Video on YouTube (English language)
1KITE Project report in SCIENCE magazine

About 1KITE:

The 1K (1000) Insect Transcriptome Evolution project (1KITE) has brought together internationally recognized experts in molecular biology, morphology, paleontology, embryology, bioinformatics, and scientific computing in a yet unparalleled way. For more information, visit