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MIT scientists discovered an amazing amount of diversity among a population of marine microbes living in a few drops of water. Each subpopulation of the marine microbe Prochlorococcus is characterized by a shared genomic "backbone." The figurative backbones are depicted in this artist's rendering.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle. Continue reading