The sea, scientists find, is a lot more diverse than thought

When most people look out upon the unbounded oceans, they think, "Ah, the majesty of sea! Well, enough admiration. It goes on like this for a couple of thousand miles. I'm going to go get a corn dog."

Scientists, however, are discovering that the oceans in terms of microbes are quite diverse. Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome, discovered on a voyage around the world hunting for microbes that the species of small cellular animals changes fairly rapidly.

"The sea is very heterogeneous. When Venter sampled seawater microbes on 200 mile intervals, up to 85% of the gene sequences in successive samples were unique," said Steve Jurvetson, a partner at Draper, Fisher Jurvetson and an investor in Venter's Synthetic Genomics.

In other words, if you start at the California coast and go 200 miles, that's like going from tundra to the rain forest, in terms of the populations of single-celled creatures.

Why should you care? Well, it's sort of fun to know. More importantly, Venter among others believes that microbes and other small animals can be used to produce ethanol and other valuable compounds in the future. Dyadic International, for instance, has found a fungus, originally from Russia, that they believe could help produce ethanol. It's a lot easier to grow these things in labs than grow acres of corn.

 

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