Genome experts who took on a patch of ocean for a mass gene-sequencing project said on Thursday they had discovered at least 1,800 new species of microbes and changed some of their fundamental ideas about ocean biology.
Genome pioneer Craig Venter and other scientists analyzed the tiny organisms in a sample of water from the Sargasso Sea off Bermuda and then sequenced the genetic code.
They used the technique that Venter, now at his own non-profit institute, used to accelerate the sequencing of the human gene map. Called whole-genome shotgun sequencing, it uses powerful computers to re-assemble the genetic code.
They found 1.2 million new genes and, based on what they know about the genetics of existing organisms and the sample they took, guess that represents at least 1,800 new species.