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Marine tubeworms need nudge to transition from larvae state
Date:1/9/2014

Hadfield and his team have been studying the marine tubeworm H. elegans since 1990. In his laboratory, researchers cultivated strains of bacteria to identify the specific genes that are involved with causing the H. elegans larvae to abandon their free-swimming ways and "recruit" out of the ocean to begin a new life phase affixed onto harder surfaces. Interestingly, the researchers found that these particular bacteria, Pseudoalteromonas luteoviolacea, produce arrays of phage tail-like structures that are similar to those produced for puncturing the cell membranes of competing bacteria. The phage tail-like structures appear to play a role in the bacterium-animal interaction as well, but researchers are still analyzing the specifics.

This bacteria's not all bad, though. While a new layer of marine life on a previously pristine boat hull might be a negative for a boat owner, the same bacteria-driven process is a positive for repairing and restoring damaged reefs, for example. And greater knowledge of the forces that drive larval recruitment could also be a boon for oyster and clam growers in the mariculture industry, who rely on very similar processes to seed their stocks.

"Larval settlement is responsible for creating new communities on new surfaces," Hadfield said. "But it's also essential to continue those communities as old organisms dieto recruit new ones there to replace them. In the ecology of the sea, it's one of the most important processes, and the more we understand about it, the better we can help it go."

"Knowledge like this will help us to develop methods that target the process itself," Hadfield said.


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Contact: Talia S. Ogliore
togliore@hawaii.edu
808-956-4531
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Source:Eurekalert  

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