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Can geography trump other factors that influence the makeup of genes an organism hosts?

This is an interesting story from RedOrbit on how geographic factors influence the genes of the acid loving extremophile Sulfolobus islandicus.

Sulfolobus islandicus, a microbe that can live in boiling acid, is offering up its secrets to researchers hardy enough to capture it from the volcanic hot springs where it thrives. In a new study, researchers report that populations of S. islandicus are more diverse than previously thought, and that their diversity is driven largely by geographic isolation.

The findings open a new window on microbial evolution, demonstrating for the first time that geography can trump other factors that influence the makeup of genes an organism hosts.

S. islandicus belongs to the archaea, a group of single-celled organisms that live in a variety of habitats including some of the most forbidding environments on the planet. Once lumped together with bacteria, archaea are now classified as a separate domain of life.

(There is also an interview with the lead researcher Rachel Whitaker on the Meet the Scientist part of this site.)
 
 

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