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Poisonous morning hygiene
Date:1/31/2012

This release is also available in Chinese on EurekAlert! Chinese.

(Jena) Every morning when the sun comes up, the ocean ground is radically cleaned. As soon as the first rays of sunlight find their way into the water, the microalgae "Nitzschia cf pellucida" start their deadly 'morning hygiene'. The algae, the size of only some few micrometers, wrap themselves and their surroundings in a highly toxic poison: cyanogen bromide, a chemical relative of hydrocyanic acid, although much more toxic.

Like a 'molecular toothbrush', which removes other micro-organisms thoroughly, every morning this chemical mace 'disinfects' the ground on which these diatoms grow. "Thus they can ideally grow and keep direct competitors for light and free space in check," Professor Dr. Georg Pohnert of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) states. The director of the Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry revealed together with his team and colleagues of the University Ghent (Belgium) the chemical devastating blow of the diatoms. Their findings were published in the new edition of the well known science magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cyanogen bromide is a highly poisonous metabolic toxin and is amongst other things being used for the lixiviating of gold ores. During the First World War it was also used as a chemical weapon. "Until now it wasn't even known that this poison occurs in the living nature at all," says Professor Pohnert. For "Nitzschia cf pellucida" the production of cyanogen bromide seems to be easy though. As soon as the first rays of sunlight find their way into the water, the cellular 'devil's workshop' starts to work. "From two up to four hours after day break the concentration of the released cyanogen bromide is at its highest, later o
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Contact: Axel Burchardt
presse@uni-jena.de
49-364-193-1031
Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena
Source:Eurekalert  

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