Title: Researchers Discover Salt-Loving Methanogens. Two previously overlooked archaeal strains fill an evolutionary gap for microbes.
Source: The Scientist
Summary: There are many stains of archaea that are able to live in high salt concentrations and others that produce methane but normally not both. However, researchers were able to culture and identify two linkages of archaea living in salty lakes that are also generating methane. They were able to compare the genomes of the two linkages that suggest a common ancestor of archaea being methane producers.
Connections: Methane producing archaea (methanogens) are autotrophs because their main source of carbon for growth is CO2. They also thrive in hypoxic conditions meaning they thrive in low oxygen.
Critical analysis: One part in the article that I found interesting was a microbiologist William Whitman at University of Georgia was one of the researchers in the beginning that was able to hypothesis that halophilic (organims that thrive in high salt concentrations) archaea evolved from linkage of methanogens but there was a missing link. Until microbial ecologist Dimity Sorokin and his colleagues found DNA within the soda lakes in Southern Siberia that revealed two versions of unique genes to methanogens confirming that hypothesis. The other aspect that was helpful was researchers were able to successfully culture these archaea, making it better to study and apply experiments to the different strains that were found.
Question: How would you go about looking for versions of unique genes within a methanogen, would you compare it to a similar archaea?