2007 Annual Science Report
University of Colorado, Boulder Reporting | JUL 2006 – JUN 2007
Molecular Survey of Microbial Diversity in Hypersaline Ecosystems
In the main area of research, microbiology of hypersaline ecosystems, substantial progress was made in discovering new microbes including eucaryotes, in the Guerrero Negro hypersaline mat system. By partnering with the Joint Genome Institute (DOE) we have conducted the largest survey so far of environmental diversity, expanding significantly the ribosomal RNA tree of life, particularly among bacteria. Several publications have resulted and are being prepared based on those findings. This work and an accompanying metagenomic study is underway and promises to be historic in terms of advancing our understanding of microbial diversity.
Beyond the sequence census, the Guerrero Negro project has gone far to expanding the tree of life, not only in terms of numbers, but also the diversity of representation in calculations to extract computationally the actual topology of the tree of life, still unresolved at the deepest levels. The novel diversity provides many additional “survey points” with which to contruct the map of the course of evolution on Earth.
We have recently (in press) completed work with and described a most unusual microbial life form, fabric-like biofilms coating the walls of a geothermal (>50°C) cave located near Glenwood Springs, CO. Molecular analysis (rRNA gene sequences) showed a remarkable assemblage of Crenarchaeota and bacteria, likely in a symbiotic association that promotes fabric formation that supports the community.
PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:Norman Pace
PROJECT MEMBERS:J. Harris
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 3.4
Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems
Earth's early biosphere
Foundations of complex life
Environment-dependent, molecular evolution in microorganisms
Co-evolution of microbial communities
Biochemical adaptation to extreme environments
Environmental changes and the cycling of elements by the biota, communities, and ecosystems
Adaptation and evolution of life beyond Earth
Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials