A census of species of Archaea and Bacteria published recently showed that, despite ever-increasing sequencing efforts, the PCR-based retrieval of 16S rRNA genes is approaching saturation. On average, 95% of the genes analyzed today are identical to those present in public databases, with rarefaction analysis indicating that about one-third of the bacterial and archaeal diversity has already been covered. Despite previous estimates of up to 1012 microbial species, the option should be considered that the census of Archaea and Bacteria on planet Earth might yield only millions of species after all.
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