Towards a genetic map of the microscopic living world

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Towards a genetic map of the microscopic living world

Nobody knows the extent of the richness of our planet’s protists, a group that brings together all microorganisms with a distinct intracellular nucleus. This heterogeneous lot, a real gem of biodiversity in terms of numbers of species, still conceals most of its secrets.

In order to shed light on this invisible world, and given the importance of certain groups of protists, an international program involving 24 institutions was established by Jan Pawlowski, professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), and Colomban de Vargas, research director at CNRS at the Biological Station of Roscoff (Brittany).

This comprehensive initiative is detailed in the journal PLoS Biology, November 6, 2012. It aims to establish a reference library of «DNA barcodes», which will allow researchers to survey the immense diversity of protists and therein identify unknown species
to ultimately assess their role in ecosystems.