Microbiome = the microbes that mostly run things on our planet and in our bodies.
(Or so they say. We’re just the back office.)
In two papers published simultaneously in the journals Science and Nature, the scientists called for a government-led effort akin to the Brain Initiative, a monumental multiyear project intended to develop new technologies to understand the human brain.
In recent decades, microbiologists have begun to map their astonishing diversity. The animal kingdom contains about 40 major groups, or phyla. Microbiologists now recognize upward of 1,000 phyla of microbes.
“Plants and animals are a patina on the microbial world,” said Margaret J. McFall-Ngai of the University of Hawaii, a co-author on both new papers.
Each of these communities of microbes can be dizzyingly complex. A single human microbiome can be made up of trillions of microbes divided into thousands of species.
Scientists cannot yet answer even basic questions about how these communities function. In Science, 48 scientists described some of the most pressing mysteries. More.
Actually, it is not even clear whether terms like “phyla” or “species” are a good way of understanding microbes’ relationships.
But starting is always a start, right?
See also: Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more
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