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      Earth and Life Processes Discovered from Subseafloor Environments - A Decade of Science Achieved by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) 

      Genetic Evidence of Subseafloor Microbial Communities

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      Elsevier

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          Archaea in coastal marine environments.

          E Delong (1992)
          Archaea (archaebacteria) are a phenotypically diverse group of microorganisms that share a common evolutionary history. There are four general phenotypic groups of archaea: the methanogens, the extreme halophiles, the sulfate-reducing archaea, and the extreme thermophiles. In the marine environment, archaeal habitats are generally limited to shallow or deep-sea anaerobic sediments (free-living and endosymbiotic methanogens), hot springs or deep-sea hydrothermal vents (methanogens, sulfate reducers, and extreme thermophiles), and highly saline land-locked seas (halophiles). This report provides evidence for the widespread occurrence of unusual archaea in oxygenated coastal surface waters of North America. Quantitative estimates indicated that up to 2% of the total ribosomal RNA extracted from coastal bacterioplankton assemblages was archaeal. Archaeal small-subunit ribosomal RNA-encoding DNAs (rDNAs) were cloned from mixed bacterioplankton populations collected at geographically distant sampling sites. Phylogenetic and nucleotide signature analyses of these cloned rDNAs revealed the presence of two lineages of archaea, each sharing the diagnostic signatures and structural features previously established for the domain Archaea. Both of these lineages were found in bacterioplankton populations collected off the east and west coasts of North America. The abundance and distribution of these archaea in oxic coastal surface waters suggests that these microorganisms represent undescribed physiological types of archaea, which reside and compete with aerobic, mesophilic eubacteria in marine coastal environments.
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            Insights into the phylogeny and coding potential of microbial dark matter.

            Genome sequencing enhances our understanding of the biological world by providing blueprints for the evolutionary and functional diversity that shapes the biosphere. However, microbial genomes that are currently available are of limited phylogenetic breadth, owing to our historical inability to cultivate most microorganisms in the laboratory. We apply single-cell genomics to target and sequence 201 uncultivated archaeal and bacterial cells from nine diverse habitats belonging to 29 major mostly uncharted branches of the tree of life, so-called 'microbial dark matter'. With this additional genomic information, we are able to resolve many intra- and inter-phylum-level relationships and to propose two new superphyla. We uncover unexpected metabolic features that extend our understanding of biology and challenge established boundaries between the three domains of life. These include a novel amino acid use for the opal stop codon, an archaeal-type purine synthesis in Bacteria and complete sigma factors in Archaea similar to those in Bacteria. The single-cell genomes also served to phylogenetically anchor up to 20% of metagenomic reads in some habitats, facilitating organism-level interpretation of ecosystem function. This study greatly expands the genomic representation of the tree of life and provides a systematic step towards a better understanding of biological evolution on our planet.
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              Global distribution of microbial abundance and biomass in subseafloor sediment.

              The global geographic distribution of subseafloor sedimentary microbes and the cause(s) of that distribution are largely unexplored. Here, we show that total microbial cell abundance in subseafloor sediment varies between sites by ca. five orders of magnitude. This variation is strongly correlated with mean sedimentation rate and distance from land. Based on these correlations, we estimate global subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance to be 2.9⋅10(29) cells [corresponding to 4.1 petagram (Pg) C and ∼0.6% of Earth's total living biomass]. This estimate of subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance is roughly equal to previous estimates of total microbial abundance in seawater and total microbial abundance in soil. It is much lower than previous estimates of subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance. In consequence, we estimate Earth's total number of microbes and total living biomass to be, respectively, 50-78% and 10-45% lower than previous estimates.
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                Author and book information

                Book Chapter
                2014
                : 85-125
                10.1016/B978-0-444-62617-2.00004-9
                5ca28973-2c17-4ee8-b8b6-0c050b9aa358
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