updated 10/4/2007 5:00:21 PM ET 2007-10-04T21:00:21

Hot vents deep in the ocean harbor thousands of previously unknown microorganisms, scientists report.

By examining the DNA of microbes taken from two hydrothermal vents off the coast of Oregon, researchers identified as many as 37,000 different kinds of bacteria and 3,000 archaea, a type of microorganism distinct from bacteria, according to researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass. and the University of Washington.

Their findings are reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

"Most of these bacteria had never been reported before," lead author Julie Huber of the MBL said in a statement. "Clearly, additional sampling of these communities will be necessary to determine the true diversity."

The researchers also reported that the populations living at the two vents differed because of different chemical environments.

The research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, National Research Council, L'Oreal USA, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation.

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