Scientists have discovered several very rare species of microorganisms, some of which have never been seen before and others that have escaped the prying eyes of scientists for over a hundred years.
The discovery of these elusive species, published in the scientific journal PROTIST, was created by an unconventional duo who never met in person; Professor Genoveva Esteban of Bournemouth University and James Weiss, an independent scientist who operates with his two cats in his private lab in Warsaw, Poland.
Their approach to science, and excavating these new and rare organisms, will help scientists and the public learn more about life at the microscopic level. They also hope it will inspire thousands of young people into science and prove the importance of microscopic life for everyone on the planet.
Microorganisms consist of only one cell and are at the bottom of the food chain. They live all around us and can be found in every habitat, from small puddles to vast oceans; there is still much to discover about them.
“Biodiversity at the microscopic level is not as widely understood as other parts of nature, despite the fact that entire ecosystems depend on it,” explains Professor Esteban.
“Some of these species are completely new and others haven’t been seen for over a century. We’ve documented a lot of curious behavior on them and performed DNA analysis on them for the first time.
“This means we can understand more about their relationships with other microbes and find new branches for them on the tree of life,” Professor Esteban continued.
The very rare and new microorganisms include: Legendrea loyezae.
Professor Esteban said: “We don’t know what this organism was named after; the more than 100-year-old French description does not include the origin of the name, but we suspect it was after a person since “Legendre” is a common French last name.”
They also discovered a new lacerus, meaning “with irregular edges” due to the jagged appearance of the cell edges, as well as a new one apertospathula, meaning “ventral mouth opening”.
The new strains haven’t been given names yet, but Weiss hopes to name them with contemporary fictional references that will catch the attention of people of all ages.
“Most organisms on the tree of life are microscopic. In fact, most life on Earth has always been microscopic. Microorganisms were the first predators on Earth, their greedy appetites were one of the leading factors of the evolution of more complex life in eras of the Earth,” Weiss explained.
“As prey developed better defenses, predators had to develop better ways to capture them. After the evolution of multicellular, complex life, they became the main food source for other species, such as krill and plankton, which in turn are food for larger species. organisms were removed at the very bottom, all other parts of the food chain above would collapse as well,” he added.
The duo worked together for a year and a half, examining thousands of samples from water bodies, mainly from Poland, but also around the world.
“We knew no one else would look for this and no other research on microbes has involved such an intensive search,” said Professor Esteban.
“As with all forms of wildlife spotting, the more you look, the more you find. By taking so many samples almost every day, we knew we could find something new. The more we know about the microscopic world , the more we can learn about the rest of their habitats where all other forms of life survive.”
After they isolated the microorganisms in each sample, they were able to study their DNA and identify those that were new to science and others that were extremely rare, and they needed a specialist. dr. Demetra Andreou, a molecular ecologist at Bournemouth University, also brought her expertise to the team.
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James Weiss et al, The Extraordinarily Rare Ciliate Fauré-Fremite, 1908 (Haptoria, Ciliophora), Protist (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.protis.2022.125912
Quote: Discovery of New Microscopic Species Expands Tree of Life (2022, October 1), retrieved October 1, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-discovery-microscopic-species-tree-life.html
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