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Unraveling the hidden world of salt marsh microbes

The windswept grasses of salt marshes might deceive many with their simplicity. But scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) have unveiled an intricate world beneath. This world is bustling with microbes, especially sulfur-cycling ones, responsible for the marshes' unique scent. 

By analyzing DNA from salt marsh sites in Massachusetts and Alabama, MBL scientists have delved into this microscopic universe. Their findings, detailed in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, span from vast microbial genomes to minute nucleotides. 

The interconnectedness of the sulfur and carbon cycles in salt marshes plays a pivotal role in carbon storage. MBL Senior Scientist, Zoe Cardon, spotlighted the immense microbial diversity discovered. Using state-of-the-art sequencing tools, the team could create digital representations of these microbial genomes, known as metagenome, assembled genomes (MAGs). 

The two primary sulfur-cycling bacterial groups, sulfate reducers and sulfur oxidizers, both play crucial roles in maintaining the health of the salt marsh plants. The study even identified microbes so similar that minor metabolic pathway differences set them apart. 

Initiated during the pandemic, this research venture stands as a beacon of collaborative science. It not only broadens our knowledge of salt marshes but also the myriad microbes that call it home. 

Source : wisconsinagconnection

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