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Algae that live inside the cells of salamanders are the first known vertebrate endosymbionts
Date:4/4/2011

uralists first noticed an association between spotted salamander eggs and green algae more than 100 years ago. This relationship was formalized by name in 1927 by Lambert Printz, who named the algal species Oophilia amblystoma. The genus name means "egg loving." The nature of that symbiosis was not known until the 1980s, when experimentation revealed the salamander embryos do not develop as quickly or as fully in the absence of the green algae. Likewise, algae grown separately from the embryos but in the presence of water exposed to the embryos also grew more robustly.

Despite decades of study, the revelation of an endosymbiosis between the amphibian and alga took many by surprise when Kereny presented preliminary information at a scientific meeting last year. The reason, Hangarter said, is that the algae cells were not easy to see by conventional light microscopy. Because the chlorophyll in the algae is highly fluorescent, the scientists were able to use modern fluorescent microscopy to probe to the salamanders.

They also used a short string of nucleic acids that targets and binds to a ribosomal RNA molecule unique to Oophilia (18S rRNA) and by a visualization technique called fluorescence in situ hybridization, they found that the algae RNA is pervasive within spotted salamander embryo cells.

"With the ability to use gene-specific probes, it is now possible to determine the presence of organisms that may not be easily visible by standard light microscopy," Hangarter said. "In the past, researchers looking with simpler light microscopy techniques than are available today failed to see any algae in the salamanders."

The symbiotic relationship between spotted salamanders and Oophilia is mutualistic because both creatures benefit. Symbiosis is a general category of species-species interaction in which the organisms share space for extended periods of time. Symbioses can benefit one organism and harm the other (parasitism), benefit b
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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