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2003 Annual Science Report

Marine Biological Laboratory Reporting  |  JUL 2002 – JUN 2003

Executive Summary

Environmental Genomes and the Evolution of Complex Systems in Simple Organisms

Biology imposes an overwhelming force on planetary change through biogeochemical processes that originated in ~3.5 billion year old microbial communities. Through metabolic activities, microorganisms orchestrate key processes in carbon fixation, geochemical cycling, biodegradation and atmospheric change. For at least 80 percent of our evolutionary history, microbes were the only forms of life. By comparison, the multicellular world of plants, animals and fungi are derived forms whose continued existence is completely dependent upon a microbial world of uncharted diversity. Whether biological systems similar to those on Earth ever occurred or continue to function on other planets or large satellites is unresolved but if life occurs elsewhere in our solar system, it will be microbial in form.

The primary objectives of the Astrobiology Team at the Marine Biological Laboratory are rooted in delineating the evolutionary ...

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