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Montana State team finds Yellowstone alga that detoxifies arsenic
Date:3/9/2009

zon is a simple one-celled organism classified as a red algae.

Rosen added that the alga they studied is a primitive plant, so it might shed light on how plants can tolerate arsenic, which is used in several types of herbicides. The knowledge they gained could also be used someday to help create a new type of rice.

"Some plants, such as rice, accumulate high concentrations of arsenic. This endangers our food supply," Rosen explained. "Rice with high amounts of arsenic won't kill anyone quickly, but does increase the risk of cancers such as bladder cancer."

McDermott said when he first thought about investigating the changing colors in the Yellowstone algae mats, he figured that something more than photosynthesis had to be involved. He thought altitude and latitude played a role. Some of the hot springs have no trees around them, so he wondered if the intense June sun was hammering the algae.

Molecular evidence suggests that the algae in these springs are comprised of two different population groups, McDermott said. One flourishes in the winter and the other in the summer. The algae that dominates in the summer can apparently tolerate high levels of ultraviolet rays.


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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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