Gene Study of Sargasso Sea Sample Yields Surprising Results

Gene sequencing conducted on a small sample of water from the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda has revealed some 1,800 new species and led to questions about our basic knowledge of ocean biology. A group of scientists led by Craig Venter — the famed gene researcher and developer of a method for accelerating the sequencing of the human genome — found 800 new genes for light-gathering photoreceptors, an astonishing haul given that only 150 such genes had previously been identified in all known species. The researchers speculated that in the nutrient-barren Sargasso, bacteria had evolved to gather energy from sunlight as a substitute; scientists are eager to find ways of using such bacteria to harvest energy for human use. Said Venter, “It is estimated that over 99 percent of species remain to be discovered. Our work in the Sargasso Sea, an area thought to have low diversity of species, has shown that there is much that we do not yet understand about the ocean and its inhabitants.”