Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

April 25, 2014 11:53 AM

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The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion upon billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle.

To probe this question, scientists in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) recently performed a cell-by-cell genomic analysis on a wild population of Prochlorococcus living in a milliliter of ocean water, and found hundreds of distinct gene...

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