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|UH Oceanography Professor Discovers New Group of Microorganisms|
HONOLULU-- Professor of Oceanography, David M. Karl of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, in cooperation with two other researchers, Markus B. Karner and Edward F. DeLong, will be published in the weekly scientific journal Nature.
The team's research paper entitled "Archaeal Dominance in the Mesopelagic Zone of the Pacific Ocean," reports the dominance of planktonic archaea in the Northern Pacific Ocean Region. This research is part of the Hawai'i Ocean Time-series (HOT), an ongoing, 12-year study of the North Pacific Ocean sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Archaea, one of three separate domains of life on our planet left undiscovered until 1970, have previously been found only in extreme environments such as high temperature volcanic vents on the ocean floor, continental hot springs and fumeroles, and highly salty and acidic waters. The Archaea found by the research group in the open sea share characteristics of two groups thought to be forced into these extreme areas.
According to Karl, the archaeal cell concentration in the study makes up a large percentage of the biomass of the open ocean, which is earth's largest biome. "These organisms could make up almost 50% of life in the sea. We didn't expect to find them in the open ocean," says Karl. This report is the first to note the "numerical abundance" of these organisms.
In the past, Archaea were known as archaebacteria, but it has since been found that they are fundamentally distinct from true bacteria. Very little is known about these particular life forms. According to Karl, "We only discovered them by their unusual genetic and molecular structures."
Marine scientists have yet to understand how Archaea takes in nutrients, multiplies, or the ecological role it plays in their particular environments. They could later be found in soil, be discovered as factors in causing disease and infection, or any number of other functions.
The discovery of the numerical abundance of an entirely new group of microorganisms "points out the basic ignorance we have of the earth we live on," says Karl. The research also reveals the need for a re-classification of the characteristics of the Archaea kingdom.
Dr. David Karl is a veteran of over 40 major oceanographic cruises in areas of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Black Sea, the Amazon River and Antarctica. He serves on several editorial boards for scientific publications in his field and has received honors and awards for his research in previous years. In 1999, he was elected to Fellowship in the American Geophysical Union for his research on marine ecosystems.
Nature was originally published in 1869 and has since added 11
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