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This Week in Science: Oct 23, 2015

In this week's Science, a trio of British scientists discusses the limitations inherent in systems biology due to its reliance on mathematical and computational modeling, highlighting the need for an honest representation of the uncertainties in any model's predictions and parameters. The researchers also note that oftentimes too much emphasis is placed on the predictive power of models, stressing that they should be viewed as tools to "uncover mechanisms that cannot be directly observed." When used appropriately, models are invaluable resources to explore hypotheses, but their relevance depends on "the ability to assess, communicate, and, ultimately, understand their uncertainties," they add.

Also in Science, a group from the University of Queensland reports data derived from genomic studies pointing to the existence of methane metabolism among single-celled microorganisms. While methanogenic and methanotrophic archaea are known to be important contributors to global methane cycling, there has been no conclusive evidence for methane metabolism in these organisms outside of the phylum Euryarchaeota. By performing metagenomic sequencing of a deep aquifer and recovering two near-complete genomes belonging to the archaeal phylum Bathyarchaeota, the researchers were able to identify genes required for methane metabolism, suggesting unrecognized archaeal lineages may contribute to global methane cycling.