Navigation Links
Natural 'keystone molecules' punch over their weight in ecosystems

Naturally occurring "keystone" molecules that have powerful behavioral effects on diverse organisms often play large but unrecognized roles in structuring ecosystems, according to a theory proposed in the June issue of BioScience. The authors of the theory, Ryan P. Ferrer of Seattle Pacific University and Richard K. Zimmer of the University of California at Los Angeles, liken such molecules to keystone species, animals or plants that may be uncommon but exert a controlling influence, through predation or in other ways. Keystone molecules function in chemical communication and defense, and likewise have dominant consequences in nature.

Ferrer and Zimmer give four examples of keystone molecules. DMSP is a simple chemical, synthesized by single-celled marine organisms, that has powerful effects on bacteria, and through its breakdown products, on the foraging of seabirds. Saxitoxin is a potent poison, also produced by marine microbes, that repels some grazing animals but can cause massive die-offs of fishes, seabirds, and marine mammals. Tetrodotoxin is another toxic keystone molecule, but produced in the skin of newts. It prompts newt larvae to hide to avoid being cannibalized and also deters some predators. Garter snakes that feed on newts, however, can accumulate the toxin in their own tissues, which in turn provides them with predator protection. Pyrrolizidine akaloids, which are synthesized by many plants, repel most plant-eaters, but are consumed by some moths, which recycle the alkaloids and convert them into a powerful volatile pheromone that attracts mates.

Because of their multifunctional effects and importance in the sea, in fresh water, and on land, keystone molecules deserve special attention from managers seeking to conserve species, Ferrer and Zimmer argue. The loss of a species that produces or captures a keystone molecule in an area could have far-reaching effects, as could the arrival of a non-native species that disrupts flows of the molecules. Future research, Ferrer and Zimmer suggest, is likely to reveal more keystone molecules and unseen webs of natural control.


Contact: Tim Beardsley
703-674-2500 x326
American Institute of Biological Sciences

Related biology news :

1. 3D simulation shows how form of complex organs evolves by natural selection
2. University of Southern California scientists reveal natural process that blocks viruses
3. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program earns 2013 Award for Science and Technical Achievement
4. Methane emissions from natural gas local distribution focus of new study
5. New emissions standards would fuel shift from coal to natural gas
6. Men may have natural aversion to adultery with friends wives
7. The natural ecosystems in the Colombian Orinoco Basin are in danger
8. Walking in the footsteps of 19th and 20th century naturalists
9. Newly identified natural protein blocks HIV, other deadly viruses
10. Nitrogen from pollution, natural sources causes growth of toxic algae, study finds
11. Recreating natural complex gene regulation
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/9/2015)... , Nov. 09, 2015 ... addition of the "Global Law Enforcement ... offering. --> ) has ... Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report ... and Markets ( ) has announced ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) policy ... and Biosecurity: Lessons Learned and Options for the Future," ... Human Services guidance for synthetic biology providers has worked ... --> --> Synthetic biology promises ... to pose unique biosecurity threats. It now is easier ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... YORK , Oct. 29, 2015 ... technology, announced a partnership with 2XU, a global ... to deliver a smart hat with advanced bio-sensing ... and other athletes to monitor key biometrics to ... the strategic partnership, the two companies will bring together ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: AEZ) ... of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as of ... corporate developments that would cause the recent movements in ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company engaged ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... PUNE, India , November 24, 2015 ... to a new market research report "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market ... Equipment), Application (PCR, Gene Synthesis, Diagnostic, DNA, RNAi), End-User ... to 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected ... 1,078.1 Million in 2015, at a CAGR of 10.1% ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its Executive ... Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV racing ... this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the community ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ALBANY, New York , November 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... According to a recent market research report released by ... is projected to expand at a CAGR of 17.5% ... titled "Non-invasive Prenatal Testing Market - Global Industry Analysis, ... 2022", estimates the global non-invasive prenatal testing market to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: