U.S. researchers say they have discovered millions of new genes and thousands of new protein families that could help scientists develop alternative fuels or cope with environmental issues.
The new findings come from a voyage by a group of scientists starting in the waters off northeastern Canada, down to the Galapagos and Polynesian island groups, around the Horn of Africa, and to the waters off the east coast of the United States. As they traveled, they pumped seawater through a filter system and examined the results with a supercomputer.
The scientists say their current findings are the result of only a quarter of the data set. They say they expect to find many more new genes among the microbes and viruses they are analyzing. The new proteins and chemical processes they are discovering could help develop new ways to turn such things as light and carbon dioxide into energy.
The researchers based their voyage on the travels of scientist Charles Darwin in the 19th century. Through observation of wildlife on his travels, Darwin formulated his ideas about evolution.