Although the rappemonads were fairly sparse in many of the samples, they appear to become quite abundant under certain conditions. For example, water samples taken from the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda in late winter appeared to have relatively high concentrations of rappemonads.
When asked why these apparently widespread algae had not been detected sooner, Sudek speculates that it may in part be due to their size. "They are too small to be noticed by people who study bigger algae such as diatoms, yet they may be filtered out by researchers who study the really small algae, known as picoplankton."
Sudek says, "The rappemonads are just one of many microbes that we know nothing aboutthis makes it an exciting field in which to work." Worden, in whose lab the research was conducted, and who first noticed the unique sequence in the 1990 paper then initiated research to "chase down" the story behind that sequence, continues, "Right now we treat all algae as being very similar. It is as if we combined everything from mice up to humans and considered them all to have the same behaviors and influence on ecosystems. Clearly mice and humans have different behaviors and different impacts!"
Even though DNA analysis demonstrated that rappemonads were present in their water samples, the researchers were still unable to visualize the tiny organisms because they didn't know what physical characteristics to look for. However, by attaching fluorescent compounds to the newly developed DNA probes, and then applying these probes to intact algae cells, Eunsoo Kim at Dalhousie was able to make parts of the rappemonads glow with a greenish light. This allowed the researchers to see individual rappemonads und
|Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett|
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute