The greenish glow highlighted the rappemonad's "chloroplasts," which contain the unique DNA sequence tagged by the new probes. Chloroplasts are used by plants and algae to harvest energy from sunlight in a process called photosynthesis. Because all of the rappemonads contain chloroplasts, the researchers believe they "make a living" through photosynthesis. However, Worden points out that it still needs to be shown that the chloroplasts are functional.
One of the primary goals of Worden's research is to study marine algae in the context of their environment. Worden feels that such an approach is imperative to understanding how rappemonads and other microorganisms affect large-scale processes in the ocean and in the atmosphere. In coming years her lab will be building upon their recent insights, including the discovery of the rappemonads, to study the roles that different algal groups play in the cycling of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the ocean.
Worden says, "There is a tremendous urgency in gaining an understanding of biogeochemical cycles. Marine algae are key players in these cycles, taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen, which we breathe. Until we have a true census of marine algae and understanding of how each group thrives, it will be very difficult to model global biogeochemical cycles. Such modeling is essential for predicting how climate change will impact life on earth."
|Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett|
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute