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Tiny MIT ecosystem may shed light on climate change
Date:12/15/2008

rapid exploitation of resource patches," Stocker said. It took bacteria less than 30 seconds, for example, to congregate within a patch of organic nutrients.

This new laboratory tool creates a microhabitat where tiny sea creatures live, swim, assimilate chemicals and eat each other. It provides the first methodological, sub-millimeter scale examination of a food web that includes single-celled phytoplankton, bacteria and protozoan predators in action.

"Rather than simply floating in the ocean and passively taking up the chemicals required for growth, many microbes exhibit sophisticated behaviors as they forage in an environment where patches of nutrients and resources are few and far between," Seymour said.

Oceanographic ecological research has typically taken place at much larger scales because of the difficulty of measuring the behavioral responses of small populations of microorganisms in very small volumes of seawater.

"To understand how environmental fluctuations affect the ecology of populations, it is imperative to understand the foraging abilities and behavior of marine microbes at environmentally relevant scales," the authors wrote.


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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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