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Little-known marine decomposers attract the attention of genome sequencers

Labyrinthulomycetes from Peconic Bay are shown growing on pollen grains. Photo credit: Enixy Collado Mercado, Stony Brook UniversitySTONY BROOK, N.Y., June 29, 2009 – The Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) announced today that they will sequence the genomes of four species of labyrinthulomycetes. These little-known marine species were selected for sequencing as the result of a proposal submitted to the competitive JGI Community Sequencing Program by a team of microbiologists led by Dr. Jackie Collier, assistant professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University.

"Labyrinthulomycetes are a huge group of organisms that behave ecologically like fungi," said Dr. Collier. "But we know so little about them and there is more diversity among this group than among all the animals you can think of."

Labyrinthulomycetes are single-celled marine decomposers that eat non-living plant, algal, and animal matter. They are ubiquitous and abundant—particularly on dead vegetation and in salt marshes and mangrove swamps. Although most labyrinthulomycetes species are not pathogens, the organisms responsible for eelgrass wasting disease and QPX disease in hard clams are part of this group.

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