HPC System SuperMUC Assists in Discovering New Species in Tropical Rainforests
Press Release 01/2017 –

An international team of scientists collected soil samples, including the microbes living in them, in lowland rainforests of Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador. The DNA was extracted and sequenced, and then more than 130 million sequences were analyzed using the SuperMUC supercomputer.

GARCHING, Germany, March 21, 2017–In this week's issue of the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, a paper was published on the microbial diversity in tropical rainforests which unveiled new findings, made possible by leveraging the computing power of high performance computing (HPC) system SuperMUC of the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (Leibniz-Rechenzentrum, LRZ) in Garching near Munich. An international team of scientists led by Micah Dunthorn (Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, funded by the Emmy-Noether Program) had collected soil samples, including the microbes living in them, in lowland rainforests of Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador. Thereafter, they extracted and sequenced their DNA. Alexandros Stamatakis, Lucas Czech, and Alexey Kozlov (Heidelberger Institut für Theoretische Studien und Karlsruher Institut für Technologie) then analyzed the more than 130 million sequences using the SuperMUC supercomputer.

More than 1 million compute core hours on the LRZ HPC system were required for this undertaking. „Without the outstanding high performance computing infrastructure in Germany and especially at LRZ, this study would not have been feasible. The availability of SuperMUC constitutes an essential national advantage in the international scientific competition“, states Alexandros Stamatakis. In 2014, Stamatakis had already contributed to a study with the computation of a phylogenetic tree of insects, featured on the cover page of Science. Later on, he had studied the phylogenetic tree of birds leveraging SuperMUC as well.

Over the years, Stamatakis‘ team was able to improve the algorithms and speed up the computations so that they now were able to perform this investigation of microbes in rainforests. Currently, the team works on a new approach to parallelize their software so that it will be able to handle datasets that are ten times as large.

The study was published in the scientific journal "Nature Ecology and Evolution": Mahé, F. et al. Parasites dominate hyperdiverse soil protist communities in Neotropical rainforests. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 0091 (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0091

Official Announcement by HITS

About GCS: The Gauss Centre for Supercomputing (GCS) combines the three national supercomputing centres HLRS (High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart), JSC (Jülich Supercomputing Centre), and LRZ (Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, Garching near Munich) into Germany’s Tier-0 supercomputing institution. Concertedly, the three centres provide the largest and most powerful supercomputing infrastructure in all of Europe to serve a wide range of industrial and research activities in various disciplines. They also provide top-class training and education for the national as well as the European High Performance Computing (HPC) community. GCS is the German member of PRACE (Partnership for Advance Computing in Europe), an international non-profit association consisting of 25 member countries, whose representative organizations create a pan-European supercomputing infrastructure, providing access to computing and data management resources and services for large-scale scientific and engineering applications at the highest performance level.

GCS is jointly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and North Rhine-Westphalia.

GCS has its headquarters in Berlin/Germany.


Regina Weigand, GCS Public Relations

+49 711 685-87261

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Tags: LRZ Biology Life Sciences