Simple Foraminifera Flourish at the Ocean's Deepest Point

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Science  04 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5710, pp. 689
DOI: 10.1126/science.1105407

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Small organisms (meiofauna) inhabiting sediments in the deepest (>10,000 m) ocean trenches are almost unknown. Through a quantitative study of live foraminifera from an extreme trench environment (10,900 m water depth), we demonstrate that these protists are an abundant meiofaunal component. Foraminifera are organisms of central importance in geology and biology. There is currently great interest in primitive noncalcareous taxa with simple, single-chambered shells. The Challenger Deep assemblages are dominated by these phylogenetically important forms. Molecular evidence suggests that similar taxa are modern representatives of the basal foraminiferal evolutionary radiation that probably occurred in the Precambrian (Neoproterozoic).

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