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Microorganisms comprise most of the evolutionary and genetic diversity in the tree of life, and produce a significant proportion of the standing crop of cellular carbon on the Earth. Prokaryotic microorganisms manifest their diversity in the form of morphological phenotypes (such as biofilm formation, multicellularity, and differentiation into specialized structures), ecological phenotypes (inhabiting environments that have particular temperature, salinity, and pH values), metabolic phenotypes (the ability to catalyze discrete chemical reactions), and the ability to perform biological processes (carrying out photosynthesis). Several studies have examined the evolution of microbial phenotypic traits in deep time. Nevertheless, most of these studies have focused on relatively small taxonomic groups, or have used a small number of phenotypic traits. This is because the taxon-by-character matrices (which record the presence and absence of traits for each taxon) required for these studies have been constructed manually and thus require significant efforts to build. Hence, the field needs to develop tools that can allow the accelerated, broad-scale study of the evolution of phenotypic traits across the prokaryotic domains of life.
(Blank., 2016) MicrO: an ontology of phenotypic and metabolic characters, assays, and culture media found in prokaryotic taxonomic descriptions. J Biomed Semantics.