Nature Today | Even the smallest differences in appearance are found in DNA

Foraminifera are homogeneous organisms that occur mainly in the ocean and have an outer calcareous skeleton. Creatures are often very difficult to identify because it is not clear whether a person has a different shape, whether it lives in a different environment, for example in deep water, or whether it cares about the characteristics of the organism. For example, these organisms may be almost identical, but genetically different, or have the same genes and are completely different.

How do genes and genes relate to each other? Naturalis researchers have observed the genus Ambicorus. Different samples were collected in Australia and Indonesia and examined by micro CD scan. These are 3D scans in which many details are visible.

Large foraminifera from Indonesia.  Huge, when you consider these to be single-celled organisms

New types

These scans can obtain a detailed picture of forminiferous. Four different external forms of Ambicorus have been discovered. When researchers looked at the DNA of foraminifera, they found small differences. So differences in appearance are also demonstrated in DNA. When the researchers wanted to link the newly discovered specimens to existing amphibian species, they were unable to properly link them to existing organisms because they did not fit exactly into the descriptions. “The combination of different origins with different genetic make-up makes it believable that we are dealing with different types of ambiguous. However, we have refrained from systematically describing new organisms because we first want to read more samples from different regions and look at a greater number of genes,” said Naturalistoraphos.

Future vision

“We think many species have not yet been discovered or described,” says John Macher. They are now called ‘biomonitoring’ in marine ecosystems. This is the observation of some organisms that are very sensitive to changes in the environment. “Further knowledge of the biodiversity, distribution and ecology of foraminifera will facilitate the use of these organisms in biomonitoring in the future,” Macher said.

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Text: Renee Gizelmans, Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Photo: Willem Renema & John Macher, Naturalis Biodiversity Center

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