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Genomes of 56 species of microbes mapped

Scientists from the U.S. and Germany have assembled the first pages of a comprehensive encyclopedia of genomes of all the microbes on the planet. The results were published yesterday in the journal Nature.

Called the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea or GEBA, the study looks at representatives from across the major branches of the family tree of microorganisms. The first 56 genomes from this set are described in the paper.

Jonathan Eisen, PhD, senior author on the paper, explained in a release how the results will help biologists find new genes:

This is a rich sampling of the diversity of microbial genomes. Better sampling across the tree of life gives you better reference points for predicting the functions of genes.

There are estimated to be a nonillion prokaryotic microbes on the planet. About a thousand prokaryote genomes have been sequenced to date.

Eisen and collaborators now plan to add more genomes to their tree. Another 1,500 genomes would cover half the diversity among microbes that can be grown in the lab, according to Eisen.

Via Technology Review Editors Blog

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