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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Environmental genomics reveals a single species ecosystem deep within the Earth


DNA from low biodiversity fracture water collected at 2.8 km depth in a South African gold mine was sequenced and assembled into a single, complete genome. This bacterium, Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, comprises >99.9percent of the microorganisms inhabiting the fluid phase of this particular fracture. Its genome indicates a motile, sporulating, sulfate reducing, chemoautotrophic thermophile that can fix its own nitrogen and carbon using machinery shared with archaea. Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator is capable of an independent lifestyle well suited to long-term isolation from the photosphere deep within Earth?s crust, and offers the first example of a natural ecosystem that appears to have its biological component entirely encoded within a single genome.

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