University of São Paulo: Molecular tools allow discovery of new marine species

Brazil is considered a megabiodiverse country in its continental portion, that is, it has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world in terrestrial and freshwater environments. In a marine environment, despite the great richness of species, the country is not considered megabiodiverse.

In shallower regions and closer to the coast, this information is more easily collected. “As the depth increases, we know fewer species”, says Mariana Cabral de Oliveira, a professor at USP’s Institute of Biosciences (IB). “But when we manage to access greater depths, we know that there is a very rich community of species that is unknown there”, she explains to Jornal da USP in Ar 1st Edition .

According to Mariana, traditionally the description of these species is based on their morphology, that is, their appearance. When molecular tools began to be used, researchers realized that many species were misidentified.

“What we use are DNA sequences”, explains Mariana. “We sequence pieces of the genome of these organisms and compare them to other organisms.” With this method, it is possible to better understand which species occur on the Brazilian coast and how they are different from other species around the world.

Recently, an extensive marine reef system was also discovered in the region of the mouth of the Amazon River. These reefs, according to the professor, can act as a connection between the species of the Caribbean and the south of the Amazon.

Mariana emphasizes that it is important to know these species because, in addition to fishing resources, there is great potential to provide substances with medical or technological applications. “Not to mention that half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans, so we need to protect these environments for our basic survival”, he concludes.

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