Single-cell marine predator’s unique survival mechanisms uncoveredFebruary 9th, 2011 - 5:11 pm ICT by ANI
London, Feb 09 (ANI): Scientists have discovered the unique survival mechanisms of a marine organism that may be tiny, but in some ways has surpassed sharks in its predatory efficiency.
The research team’s portrait of the microscopic dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina reveals a predator so efficient that it has even acquired a gene from its prey.
“It’s an interesting case of Lateral Gene Transfer, or the movement of genes between distantly related species,” said Patrick Keeling, a University of British Columbia botany professor and one of the study’s authors.
“Our study shows that Oxyrrhis marina has picked up a gene commonly used by marine bacteria for photosynthesis. Oxyrrhis probably got this gene by eating the bacteria, but the really interesting part is that the gene produces a protein called rhodopsin, which is a photoreceptor that can make energy from light.”
“It is very much a case of ‘you are what you eat,’ because Oxyrrhis marina has so much rhodopsin in its system that it has assumed the protein’s signature pink colour,” said Keeling.
“Our hypothesis is that it is using the rhodopsin to harvest energy from light - as bacteria often do - but we think that it also uses the energy to help digest its prey, some of which were the original supplier of the gene. It is a really neat mix of metabolic strategies.”
Oxyrrhis marina is part of a family of marine plankton that also includes the organisms responsible for harmful red tides. It is common in shallow waters such as tide pools around the world, including along the British Columbia coast. It has evolved extreme survival mechanisms, including the ones described in the UBC study. Oxyrrhis marina can cannibalize its own species when no other prey is available.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications. (ANI)
- 'Little brown balls' link malaria and algae to common ancestor - Jun 02, 2010
- Study finds temperature-sensing role in eyes' light-sensing receptor - Mar 11, 2011
- Plant gene can replace whale compound in perfumes - Apr 05, 2012
- Microbe's toxic hunting habits could help curb massive fish kills - Jan 22, 2010
- Bacteria more likely to adopt 'loner' genes than well-connected ones - Mar 17, 2011
- Sharks are colour blind, says study - Sep 20, 2012
- First harmful algal bloom species genome sequenced - Feb 22, 2011
- Promising results of gene therapy to treat eye diseases - Aug 14, 2010
- Chemical mechanism behind bugs' antibiotic resistance identified - Apr 29, 2011
- Sea urchins see with their body - minus eyes - Jul 01, 2011
- Like humans, spiders too watch their diets - May 28, 2010
- Scientists crack secret of superbug's resistance - Apr 29, 2011
- Loss of plant diversity 'disrupting Earth's life-support systems' - Mar 08, 2011
- Some snails evolved 'counter-coil' to evade predators' uneven bite - Dec 08, 2010
- Mechanism affecting Salmonella virulence, drug susceptibility discovered - Jul 30, 2010
Tags: botany professor, british columbia coast, dinoflagellate, extreme survival, gene transfer, journal nature, london feb, marine bacteria, marine organism, marine plankton, marine predator, photoreceptor, photosynthesis, prey, red tides, rhodopsin, shallow waters, survival mechanisms, tide pools, university of british columbia