A stunning discovery has just been made by scientists who have found ‘organisms that are different from any other life forms on Earth known to science’.
While humans are the dominant species on Earth, if we take a look at the tree of life, we will notice that we share this branch with a number of different creatures on Earth, who all have one thing in common, a backbone.
This small—yet extremely important feature—is enough to place humans in a group referred to as ‘phylum’ together with dogs, fish, and lizards. This is something we see repeated across Earth’s organisms, and essentially connects all of life’s diversities into one.
Their study, published in the Journal Nature Microbiology, experts revealed a new technique referred to as metagenomics, which essentially involves the sequencing of ALL the DNA in a sample of an environment — dirt, water, feces, etc. — to produce that sample’s metagenome.
With aid of an international massive database composed of 1,500 metagenomes, scientists were able to reconstruct the individual genomes of 7,280 new bacteria and 623 new archaea.
Then, scientists came across something totally unexpected. The discovered that out of all these microorganisms, around a third were UNLIKE anything experts had seen before, resulting in the creation of 17 completely new bacterial phylums and three new achaeal phylums.
“The real value of these genomes is that many are evolutionarily distinct from previously recovered genomes,” asserts lead researcher Gene Tyson. “They increase the evolutionary diversity spanned by both bacterial and archaeal genome trees by over 30 percent, and are the first representatives within 17 bacterial and three archaeal phyla.”
“To give this context, every single insect on Earth belongs to just one phylum, and every single animal with a backbone belongs to one phylum, so this is crazy new levels of stuff,” says Nicholas Coleman at the University of Sydney.
“But this is probably an underestimate, as we’ve recently found that existing methods for estimating this actually miss a lot of organisms,” says Donovan Parks at the University of Queensland in Australia.