Biodiversity and conservation
Biodiversity and general ecology issues

Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sorcerer II sails the world finding new species and new energy genes:  "Using precise mathematical algorithms previously used to assemble sequence results from single species, the researchers were able to assemble whole genomes and major sections of genomes from the diverse microbial community found in the ocean. The paper describes a minimum of 1,800 new species identified in the Sargasso Sea. As well, there were 1,214,207 new genes identified by the researchers, which is a significant increase over the number currently in public databases. ..

One of the most important single discoveries from the Sargasso Sea environmental shotgun sequencing study is the 782 new rhodopsin-like photoreceptor genes. Only a few dozen photoreceptors have been characterized in microorganisms to date and less than 200 photoreceptors have been discovered from all species, including human where they are responsible for our vision. Therefore, this discovery represents a substantial increase in the total number of this family of proteins.   One interpretation of this finding is that at least 50% of the new species discovered use some type of photobiology and could explain the diversity of species in such a low nutrient environment. Better understanding of these photoreceptor genes could be very important to IBEA researchers as they explore the mechanisms of photosynthesis as a means to efficiently and economically produce hydrogen as a fuel source. ..

Dr. Venter also announced the official launch of the Sorcerer II Expedition, a scientific expedition of discovery that will circumnavigate the globe under sail, surveying marine and terrestrial microbial populations. The Expedition has the potential to uncover tens of thousands of new microbial species and tens of millions of new genes.   The voyage and sample collection are being funded by the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation and by the Discovery Channel Quest Program. The Sorcerer II Expedition is the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary film slated to air in 2005.   In addition to the DOE Office of Science grant previously announced, the Expedition has received an important new grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for $4.25 million which will be used to sequence the DNA collected along the coast of North America."  The site has pictures and flash presentations.

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