You may be wondering: how are microbiomes and antique marble statues related? It’s not often you find these in the same sentence; however, a recent publication in Annals of Microbiology highlights how a metagenomics approach was used to examine the microbial contaminants on three smuggled artifacts. The article was titled “A time travel story: metagenomic analyses decipher the unknown geographical shift and the storage history of possibly smuggled antique marble statues,” and the aim was to reconstruct the history of the storage of each statue to infer the possible relationship among them, and to elucidate their geographical shifts.
The team concluded that the microbiomes for each statue were very specific, and reflected the history of their storage and travel through different regions:
- One statue was male, and it was possible to identify its geographical origin due to the presence of DNA from a tree called Taiwania, found only in Asia.
- The other two contained mixes of halophilic and halotolerant bacteria, indicating presence in arid, semi-arid, and marine environments.
This work was completed with the Ion 16S™ Metagenomics Solution using 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) of prokaryotes, 18S rDNA of eukaryotes, and internal transcribed spacer regions of fungi to identify microbial species on an Ion Torrent™ sequencing platform.
Read the full publication in Annals of Microbiology.
Reference: Piñar G, Poyntner C, Tafer H et al. (2019) Ann Microbiol. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13213-019-1446-3