Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Changing perspectives on marine microbes

Jed Fuhrman, Ph.D.
University of Southern California

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Pacific Forum – 10:00 a.m.

There has been a sea change in our perception of the roles and significance of microorganisms in the functioning of marine ecosystems, due often to new technologies. I will discuss contributions of my lab’s research to several of these changing perceptions. The earliest was the unexpectedly high production rates seen in bacterioplankton. Next came the discovery of high abundance and activity of viruses. Then there was the discovery, via molecular genetic analysis, that archaea are extremely common, especially in the deep sea. Previously, all archaea were thought to be “extremophiles.” The same genetic techniques also showed the remarkable diversity of previously-unknown marine bacteria. Recently we have been examining patterns of bacterial and archaeal diversity, finding that they often mirror those known from studies of animals and plants. This includes a latitudinal gradient of diversity and also repeating and highly predictable seasonal variation in the distribution of species.

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