The ocean is the world’s largest habitat, but much of its biodiversity is still unknown. A study published in Frontiers in Science marks a significant turning point, news the largest and most comprehensive database of marine microbes to datein combination with biological function, location and habitat type.
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“The KMAP Global Ocean Gene Catalog 1.0 represents a quantum leap towards understanding the entire diversity of the oceans and contains more than 317 million genomes from marine organisms from around the world,” explains lead author, Italian Elisa Laiolo from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. “The catalog focuses on marine microbes that are critical to human life through their influence on ocean health and Earth’s climate.”
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Scientists can access the catalog remotely and study how different ones work ocean ecosystemsmonitor the impact of pollution and global warming and look for biotechnological applications such as new antibiotics or new methods of degradation plastic.
Researchers have mapped marine biodiversity hundreds of years, but faced several challenges to create a complete atlas of ocean life. One is that most marine organisms cannot be studied in the laboratory. The advent of technology DNA sequencing overcame this problem and allowed the identification of organisms directly from ocean water and sediments.
“Because each species has its own set of genes, we can identify the organisms present in an ocean sample by analyzing their genetic material,” Laiolo explained. And the decline in the cost of DNA sequencing technologies and the development of massive computing power and Artificial Intelligencewhich allow the analysis of these millions of sequences.
The catalog has already revealed the difference in microbial activity in the water column and ocean floor, as well as a surprising number of fungi living in the mesopelagic “twilight” zone. This and other information will help scientists understand how microbes living in different habitats shape ecosystems, contribute to ocean health and influence climate.
The catalog also serves as a reference point for tracking the effects of human influences, such as pollution and global warming, on marine life. In addition, it offers a large amount of genetic material that researchers can analyze for new genes that could be used for drug development, energy and agriculture.
The KMAP Ocean Gene Catalog 1.0 is the first step toward developing a Global Genome Atlas oceans that will document all the genes of every marine species in the world, come on bacteria to mushroomsGive it to her plant on animals.
“Our analysis highlights the need to continue sampling the oceans, focusing on underexplored areas such as the deep sea and the ocean floor. In addition, because the ocean is constantly evolving, both as a result of human activities and natural processes, the catalog will contain an ongoing updated,” says Laiolo.