Want to know where a type of bacteria originated? Now there’s a map for that.
After a massive, multi-year effort, scientists have assembled a detailed chart of where the world’s microbes live. The project linked more than 300,000 species to the environments that nurture them across the globe, from the soil of Antarctica to the human gut. The gene sequences were drawn from 27,000-plus samples, contributed by more than 500 scientists.
“We’re finding out on an unprecedented scale where all the microbes are and how they’re assembled into communities,” Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego, told Seeker.
The findings were published Nov. 1 in the research journal Nature, in a paper with more than 300 co-authors. Knight’s group, along with the University of Chicago, the Argonne National Laboratory, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, pulled together the map over seven years.
“Right at the beginning, some of our colleagues were every skeptical that anyone would be willing to give up something as precious as control over their samples and data to create this free and open resource,” Knight said. But he said the response from researchers was “incredibly rewarding.”