When you are swimming in the ocean, you might want to be careful not to drink the water. First of all, that salty seawater doesn’t taste too good. But also, scientists just discovered that there are way more bacteria swimming in the ocean than they previously thought.
According to a study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one liter of seawater can be home to over 20,000 different species of bacteria. This is about 20 to 100 times greater than previous estimates. Scientists now estimate that there could be between five and ten million types of bacteria living in the ocean.
The discovery was made possible by a new technique known as “454 tag sequencing” that allows for the quick identification of organisms. This technique allows them to identify thousands of kinds of unusual bacteria, which may have gone unnoticed in other research.
Dr Mitchell Sogin, from the Marine Biological Laboratory's Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative and Molecular Biology and Evolution, told BBC News that this biodiversity discovery “really points to our lack of knowledge and how much more there is to learn." There really is much to learn about the world around us.
So, next time you're swimming at the beach and you accidently take a big gulp of seawater, just think of the wide diversity of microorganisms you just swallowed.