Ecology of Archaea

Graeme W. Nicol, James I. Prosser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther contribution

Abstract

Archaea were discovered during research that aimed to understand the fundamental evolutionary relationships of all extant life. Bacteria have been studied since the 17th century and, until relatively recently, taxonomy was based on characterizing morphological and physiological properties of organisms grown in laboratory culture. The advent of molecular biology led to new approaches for defining taxonomic and evolutionary relationships. In the late 1970s, Carl Woese and George Fox discovered, through the comparison of gene sequences encoding ribosomal RNA (rRNA), that all “bacteria” were placed within two distinct groups, rather than one: the Eubacteria (including most prokaryotic species grown in the laboratory) and the Archaebacteria, later termed “Archaea” to reflect their distinct evolutionary history from (Eu)Bacteria. At the time, an important feature of cultivated archaea was that they were generally found in environments that were considered to represent extremes of temperature, salinity, pH or oxygen availability at which life could be sustained. Although this view was maintained for around fifteen years following the discovery of Archaea, the application of molecular techniques in microbial ecology in the 1990s revolutionized scientists’ understanding of archaeal diversity. Molecular signatures of archaea (16S rRNA genes) were found in all “non-extreme” environments, including soils, sediments, marine, and freshwater habitats. During the past twenty years, scientists have come to recognize that Archaea represent a major proportion of microbial biomass on the planet and make unique and essential contributions to biogeochemical cycles.

General Overview
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies in Ecology
EditorsDavid Gibson
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2016

Fingerprint

ecology
bacterium
freshwater sediment
microbial ecology
gene
biogeochemical cycle
marine sediment
RNA
planet
salinity
oxygen
biomass
habitat
history
soil
temperature
laboratory
organism
molecular biology
comparison

Cite this

Nicol, G. W., & Prosser, J. I. (2016). Ecology of Archaea. In D. Gibson (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780199830060-0160

Ecology of Archaea. / Nicol, Graeme W.; Prosser, James I.

Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology. ed. / David Gibson. New York : Oxford University Press, 2016.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther contribution

Nicol, GW & Prosser, JI 2016, Ecology of Archaea. in D Gibson (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology. Oxford University Press, New York. https://doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780199830060-0160
Nicol GW, Prosser JI. Ecology of Archaea. In Gibson D, editor, Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology. New York: Oxford University Press. 2016 https://doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780199830060-0160
Nicol, Graeme W. ; Prosser, James I. / Ecology of Archaea. Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology. editor / David Gibson. New York : Oxford University Press, 2016.
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