It's a Jungle Down Here

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Science  26 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5850, pp. 537
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5850.537a

Analyzing DNA sequences in unpurified or partially fractionated samples (such as a drop of water from the Sargasso Sea or from an acid mine drain) has proven to be remarkably informative. A high degree of organismal diversity has been documented, and extending this approach to terrestrial systems has uncovered previously unsuspected and intermingled communities of bacteria, archaea, and fungi. Vandenkoornhuyse et al. have begun to look at the exchange of goods in one such market-place by exposing pieces of turf from UK grassland (Scotland) or from French peatland (Normandy) to 13CO2 and following the transfer of the isotope into ribosomal RNA of microbes associated with the plant roots. Interpreting measurements of a non-stationary process can be somewhat challenging, but a first glance reveals a broader-than-expected population diversity and a marked unevenness in the rate of primary consumption—that is, the uptake of photosynthetic products by the root-dwelling bacteria and fungi. — GJC

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 16970 (2007).

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