Researchers at Oregon State University and Diversa Corporation have discovered that the smallest free-living cell known also has the smallest genome, or genetic structure, of any independent cell - and yet it dominates life in the oceans, thrives where most other cells would die, and plays a huge role in the cycling of carbon on Earth. In nature, apparently, bigger is not always better.
In a publication today in the journal Science, scientists outlined the growing knowledge about SAR11, a group of bacteria so dominant that their combined weight exceeds that of all the fish in the worlds oceans. In a marine environment thats low in nutrients and other resources, they are able to survive and replicate in extraordinary numbers – a milliliter of sea water off the Oregon coast might contain 500,000 of these cells.
"The ocean is a very competitive environment, and these bacteria apparently won the race," said Stephen Giovannoni, an OSU professor of microbiology. "Our analysis of the SAR11 genome indicates that they became the dominant life form in the oceans largely by being the simplest."
Stephen Giovannoni | EurekAlert!
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