Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

World Ocean Microbe Census findings revealed

Date:
October 4, 2010
Source:
Marine Biological Laboratory
Summary:
After a decade of joint work and scientific adventure, marine explorers from more than 80 countries, have just delivered the first global Census of Marine Life revealing what, where, and how much lives and hides in the world's oceans. Scientists discovered that there may be up to one billion kinds of marine microbes -- more than 100 times more diverse than plants and animals -- and as many as 38,000 kinds of microbes in a typical liter of sea water.

The acantharians are one of the four types of large amoebae that occur in marine open waters. Their fragile skeletons are made of a single crystal of strontium sulfate that quickly dissolves in the ocean water after the cell dies.
Credit: Linda Amaral Zettler (micro*scope)

After a decade of joint work and scientific adventure, marine explorers from more than 80 countries, including six scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), delivered the first global Census of Marine Life on October 4 revealing what, where, and how much lives and hides in the world's oceans. In one of the largest scientific collaborations ever conducted, more than 2,700 scientists spent over 9,000 days at sea on more than 540 expeditions gathering the data.

As a result of these efforts the scientists discovered that there may be up to 1 billion kinds of marine microbes -- more than 100 times more diverse than plants and animals -- and as many as 38,000 kinds of microbes in a typical liter of sea water.

A team of researchers from the MBL's Bay Paul Center and their colleagues in 25 countries were among the scientists contributing to the Census through their leadership of the International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM), a research project of the larger Census of Marine Life, which focused on the biodiversity of microscopic life forms in the world's oceans.

Over the last six years, ICoMM has amassed more than 25 million genetic sequences from microbes that swim in 1,200 sites around the Earth -- from polar bays to tropical seas; from estuaries to offshore; on corals, sponges, and whale carcasses; from surface waters to deep-sea smokers.

Most of the Earth's biodiversity is microbial in nature, particularly in the oceans. For more than three billion years, these creatures have mediated critical processes that shape the planet's habitability.

In 2006, ICoMM scientists made the startling discovery that while a few microbial species dominate the oceans, most of are very low in abundance. Mitchell Sogin, director of the MBL's Bay Paul Center and ICoMM project leader called this new and unexplored realm of microbial life the "rare biosphere."

Soon after this discovery, Sogin began utilizing a powerful type of DNA sequencer that enabled the analysis of microbial diversity in many more samples, much faster. His new method, called "Pyro-Tagging," attracted additional funding to expand the census. A call to scientists got an enthusiastic and high-quality response, and 40 new labs were chosen to send marine microbial samples to the MBL for sequencing.

"From the very beginning, when we were deciding how we could do a survey of marine microbes, it has been a community effort," says Sogin. "Sample collection is a very expensive game, mostly in terms of running ships, but the submitting labs paid for that, which relieved one financial hurdle for the census." Meanwhile, at the MBL, "we realized right away that we needed bioinformatics capabilities that didn't exist" to handle the data, Sogin says. So they designed databases that allow visualization of microbial diversity in several graphical ways and that combine genetic data with information on the microbes' habitats.

Early on, ICoMM scientists also made the crucial decision to collect not just genetic data on the microbes (which would separate them by type), but also contextual information on where they were found -- latitude and longitude, ocean depth, water pH, salinity, and other conditions. What they found is that all microbes are not everywhere. Despite an ability to disperse widely in the oceans, the scientists discovered that characteristic microbial communities can define different water masses in the ocean and can tell us about the health of different ecosystems.

"Believe it or not, this is unique, this coupling of (genetic) diversity data and contextual data," says Linda Amaral Zettler, MBL assistant scientist and ICoMM program manager. "The big payoff is it lets the researchers ask ecological questions about microbial populations that otherwise could not be posed."

Now is the most exciting time, when "things start to unfold, and stories are being told," says Amaral Zettler. "We think our analyses will tell us very interesting stories."

The Census of Marine Life was initiated in 2000 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. During its decade the Census grew to a $650 million global exploration, involving over 670 institutions and more than 10 times the original 250 collaborators. The Census consisted of 17 projects that touch the major habitats and groups of species in the global ocean.

More than 300 leaders of the Census community met October 4 to 7 in London at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Royal Society, and Natural History Museum to share their decade of results and consider their implications.

A sequel to the Census will be explored during the London meetings and at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity next September in Aberdeen, Scotland.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Marine Biological Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Marine Biological Laboratory. "World Ocean Microbe Census findings revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004112154.htm>.
Marine Biological Laboratory. (2010, October 4). World Ocean Microbe Census findings revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004112154.htm
Marine Biological Laboratory. "World Ocean Microbe Census findings revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004112154.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins