For the first time, researchers have mapped the biological diversity in marine sediment, one of Earth’s largest global biomes. Although marine sediment covers 70% of Earth’s surface, little was known about its global patterns of microbial diversity.

A team of researchers from the University of Rhode Island, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the University of Hyogo, the University of Kochi and the University of Bremen found new answers.

For the study, funded in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tatsuhiko Hoshino, senior researcher at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, and his colleagues, including University of Rhode Island scientist Steven D’Hondt, analyzed 299 samples of marine sediment collected as core samples from 40 sites around the globe. The samples were obtained as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program.