Model organisms are an essential component of biological and biomedical research that can be used to study specific biological processes. These organisms are in part selected for facile experimental study. However, just as importantly, intensive study of a small number of model organisms yields important synergies as discoveries in one area of science for a given organism shed light on biological processes in other areas, even for other organisms. Furthermore, the extensive knowledge bases compiled for each model organism enable systems-level understandings of these species, which enhance the overall biological and biomedical knowledge for all organisms, including humans. Building upon extensive genomics research, we argue that the time is now right to focus intensively on model organism metabolomes. We propose a grand challenge for metabolomics studies of model organisms: to identify and map all metabolites onto metabolic pathways, to develop quantitative metabolic models for model organisms, and to relate organism metabolic pathways within the context of evolutionary metabolomics, i.e., phylometabolomics. These efforts should focus on a series of established model organisms in microbial, animal and plant research.
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