Novel major archaebacterial group from marine plankton

Nature. 1992 Mar 12;356(6365):148-9. doi: 10.1038/356148a0.


Marine bacteria often dominate the plankton biomass and are responsible for much of the cycling of organic matter, but bacterial diversity is poorly understood because conventional identification methods (requiring culturing) miss about 99% of the organisms. Recent advances permit characterization of microbial communities by analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences directly from biomass without the need to culture the organisms; such studies from surface ocean samples have found only eubacteria, not archaebacteria (or Archaea), which are profoundly different. Here we report 16S rRNA sequences obtained from Pacific Ocean bacterioplankton samples collected from depths of 100 m and 500 m. Among these we found sequences only distantly related to those of any organisms previously characterized by 16S rRNA sequences, with similarities to the nearest such relatives (extreme thermophiles) approximately the same as those between animals and plants. We suggest that these sequences are from a previously undescribed archaebacterial group that may have diverged from the ancestors of characterized organisms very early in evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Plankton*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / chemistry*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • GENBANK/Z11568
  • GENBANK/Z11569
  • GENBANK/Z11570
  • GENBANK/Z11571
  • GENBANK/Z11572
  • GENBANK/Z11573