What is it about?
Marine ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) are chief ammonia oxidizers in today's world oceans, but our understandings on their ecology and evolution are not well understood. It's widely believed that these marine AOA first evolved from terrestrial hot springs before invading into marine settings. We use a modern statistical technique to leverage a rich, publicly-available data of archaeal membrane lipids (known as GDGTs) from a wide range of settings from hot springs to modern oceans and paleo-marine sediments to infer changes in ecology over the past 190 million years. Our work provides invaluable insights of AOA ecology and evolution beyond traditional molecular clock techniques.
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
Why is it important?
Archaeal membrane lipids, specifically isoprenoidal glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs), have been widely used by paleoclimate researchers as a sea surface temperature (SST) proxy for more than two decades. However, GDGTs are rarely used to study ecology and evolution of archaea themselves. Our findings show that changes in GDGT distribution over geologic time suggest changes in archaeal ecology, carrying important implications for (1) marine carbon and nitrogen cycling in past oceans and (2) paleo-SST reconstructions.
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This page is a summary of: Archaeal lipids trace ecology and evolution of marine ammonia-oxidizing archaea, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2123193119.
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