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Metagenome-based analysis: A promising direction for plankton ecological studies

DOI: 10.1007/s11427-010-4103-4

Keywords: metagenome,plankton community,morphospecies,molecular microbial ecology

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Abstract:

The plankton community plays an especially important role in the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and also in biogeochemical cycles. Since the beginning of marine research expeditions in the 1870s, an enormous number of planktonic organisms have been described and studied. Plankton investigation has become one of the most important areas of aquatic ecological study, as well as a crucial component of aquatic environmental evaluation. Nonetheless, traditional investigations have mainly focused on morphospecies composition, abundances and dynamics, which primarily depend on morphological identification and counting under microscopes. However, for many species/groups, with few readily observable characteristics, morphological identification and counting have historically been a difficult task. Over the past decades, microbiologists have endeavored to apply and extend molecular techniques to address questions in microbial ecology. These culture-independent studies have generated new insights into microbial ecology. One such strategy, metagenome-based analysis, has also proved to be a powerful tool for plankton research. This mini-review presents a brief history of plankton research using morphological and metagenome-based approaches and the potential applications and further directions of metagenomic analyses in plankton ecological studies are discussed. The use of metagenome-based approaches for plankton ecological study in aquatic ecosystems is encouraged.

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