Global distribution of a wild alga revealed by targeted metagenomics
Eukaryotic phytoplankton play key roles in atmospheric CO2 uptake and sequestration in marine environments  and . Community shifts attributed to climate change have already been reported in the Arctic ocean, where tiny, photosynthetic picoeukaryotes (≤3 Î¼m diameter) have increased, while larger taxa have decreased . Unfortunately, for vast regions of the world's oceans, little is known about distributions of different genera and levels of genetic variation between ocean basins. This lack of baseline information makes it impossible to assess the impacts of environmental change on phytoplankton diversity, and global carbon cycling. A major knowledge impediment is that these organisms are highly diverse, and most remain uncultured . Metagenomics avoids the culturing step and provides insights into genes present in the environment without some of the biases associated with conventional molecular survey methods. However, connecting metagenomic sequences to the organisms containing them is challenging. For many unicellular eukaryotes the reference genomes needed to make this connection are not available. We circumvented this problem using at-sea fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) to separate abundant natural populations of photosynthetic eukaryotes and sequence their DNA, generating reference genome information while eliminating the need for culturing . Here, we present the complete chloroplast genome from an Atlantic picoeukaryote population and discoveries it enabled on the evolution, distribution, and potential carbon sequestration role of a tiny, wild alga.