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Nature. 2001 Feb 1;409(6820):603-7.

Unexpected diversity of small eukaryotes in deep-sea Antarctic plankton.

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División de Microbiologia, Universidad Miguel Hernández, San Juan de Alicante, Spain.


Phylogenetic information from ribosomal RNA genes directly amplified from the environment changed our view of the biosphere, revealing an extraordinary diversity of previously undetected prokaryotic lineages. Using ribosomal RNA genes from marine picoplankton, several new groups of bacteria and archaea have been identified, some of which are abundant. Little is known, however, about the diversity of the smallest planktonic eukaryotes, and available information in general concerns the phytoplankton of the euphotic region. Here we recover eukaryotes in the size fraction 0.2-5 microm from the aphotic zone (250-3,000 m deep) in the Antarctic polar front. The most diverse and relatively abundant were two new groups of alveolate sequences, related to dinoflagellates that are found at all studied depths. These may be important components of the microbial community in the deep ocean. Their phylogenetic position suggests a radiation early in the evolution of alveolates.

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