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"So many ocean protists cannot be grown in the lab, so we must find ways to interrogate them in their environment," said Mike Sieracki, lead author of the study. "Every drop of seawater contains microbial ecosystems we know very little about, and it is urgently important to understand this fundamental ecosystem of our ocean planet, Earth, and how it reacts to change."
Protists form some of the ocean's most complex relationships with other members of the microbial food web, including parasitism and approaches to eating that combine both photosynthesis and predation. The research team analyzed protists from across the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea using single cell genomics, a suite of molecular techniques that reveals the genetic blueprints of individual cells. This is the first time that this approach has been applied to entire microbial communities from different places.
Sieracki - Program - Director - Oceanography - National
Sieracki is currently a program director in biological oceanography at the National Science Foundation. He conducted this research while working as a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where he helped found the institute's Single Cell Genomics Center. The researchers used the Center's advanced technology to individually sort and analyze the protists, revealing genetic code that had never been identified before.
"Protists are the ocean's most numerous predators, yet we still know very little about who they are and what they do in nature," said Ramunas Stepanauskas, a senior research scientist and the director of the Single Cell Genomics Center. "We are starting to unveil the full extent of the diversity and ecological roles of...
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