The superheroes of nutrient detection living in our oceans

phys.org | 4/24/2019 | Staff
donuzumaki (Posted by) Level 3
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y and large, marine bacteria have a fairly simple existence – eat, divide, repeat. But the first step isn't always straightforward. There are lots of nutrients in the ocean, but there's no Uber Eats for microscopic organisms. They must find their food, and it's not always at arm's reach.

We've known for a long time that some bacteria are capable of tracking down food through a combination of swimming and chemical detection, but until now we haven't known just how good they are at it.

Team - Dr - Douglas - Brumley - University

An international team, led by Dr. Douglas Brumley from the University of Melbourne and Dr. Francesco Carrara from ETH Zürich, has observed and modelled 'chemotaxis' in bacteria and found that a common marine bacterium can find sources of nutrients close to the theoretical limit of detection.

"The food sources for bacteria in the ocean are patchy and dynamic, just like for human populations," says Dr. Brumley, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics.

Humans - Towards - Cafes - Restaurants - Supermarkets

"Humans navigate towards cafes, restaurants and supermarkets in order to find food. If you're not in a location where there is food, you don't get the benefit. You have to be able to move towards it."

Bacteria are crucial to ocean ecosystems and are the base of the marine food web. They suck up nutrients that are floating around in the water and are then eaten by larger planktonic organisms, who are in turn gobbled up by crustaceans and small fish, and so forth.

Bacteria - Cycles - Challenge - Question - Results

"Bacteria are extremely important for marine nutrient cycles, but a major challenge is figuring out just how much they eat. It's not an easy question to answer, but our results point to a way forward," says study co-author Dr. Andrew Hein, from University of California Santa Cruz.

A food source can suddenly appear out of nowhere, for example when a microalgae...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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