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Scientists discover unique microbe in California's largest lake

new microbe, it appears that DNA encoding a small portion of the ribosomal gene in a proteobacterium jumped across the vast evolutionary distance that separates the proteobacteria and cyanobacteria, and switched places with the portion of the gene that had originally been inherited from the cyanobacterial parent. "This finding shows that even this popular evolutionary chronometer can be a mosaic of genetic information with radically different origins," Miller says. Using a molecular clock, Miller estimated that the proteobacterial DNA was obtained by an ancestor of modern chlorophyll-d producing cyanobacteria between roughly 10 and 100 million years ago. "The maintenance of this hybrid gene over such a long time period suggests that it has been favored by natural selection," Miller says. The foreign DNA encodes a structural feature of the ribosome that makes large and precise movements during protein synthesis, but its exact function is still unknown. The next challenge, Miller says, will be to determine whether this example of instant evolutionary innovation by genetic exchange has in fact had consequences for ribosome function in these bacteria. The new species of Acaryochloris is the latest in a series of new organisms from the Salton Sea that have been identified as part of Wood's study of the blue-green algae in the lake. With Miller, UO emeritus professor Richard Castenholz, and Canadian oceanographer William Li, she published a paper in the journal Hydrobiologia in 2002 that described five previously unknown species. The Salton Sea covers a surface area of 376 square miles in southeastern California. Its current elevation is about 227 feet below mean sea level, its maximum depth reaches 51 feet and its total volume is about 7.5 million acre-feet. It was formed in the early 1900s, when flow from the Colorado River was inadvertently directed to the Salton Basin. Once the Army Corps of Engineers returned the river to its normal bed, the lake began to evaporate,
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Source:University of Oregon


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