Feb 2, 2016

The status of the microbial census: an update

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Patrick D SchlossJ. Cameron Thrash


A census is typically carried out for people at a national level; however, microbial ecologists have implemented a molecular census of bacteria and archaea by sequencing their 16S rRNA genes. We assessed how well the microbial census of full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences is proceeding in the context of recent advances in high throughput sequencing technologies. Among the 1,411,234 and 53,546 full-length bacterial and archaeal sequences sequences, 94.5% and 95.1% of the bacterial and archeaeal sequences, respectively, belonged to operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that have been observed more than once. Although these metrics suggest that the census is approaching completion, 29.2% of the bacterial and 38.5% of the archaeal OTUs have been observed more than once. Thus, there is still considerable microbial diversity to be explored. Unfortunately, the rate of new full-length sequences has been declining and new sequences are primarily being deposited by a small number of studies. Furthermore, sequences from soil and aquatic environments, which are known to be rich in bacterial diversity, only represent 7.8 and 16.5% of the census while sequences associated with zoonotic environments represent 55.0% of the census. Continued use o...Continue Reading

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