Navigation Links
Will Antarctic worms warm to changing climate?
Date:12/20/2011

Researchers at the University of Delaware are examining tiny worms that inhabit the frigid sea off Antarctica to learn not only how these organisms adapt to the severe cold, but how they will survive as ocean temperatures increase.

The National Science Foundation study, led by Adam Marsh, associate professor of marine biosciences in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, also will compare the process of temperature adaptation in the polar worm, known scientifically as Capitella perarmata, with that of a close relative that inhabits temperate waters, Capitella teleta.

"By comparing these two marine species, we hope to assess how a polar environment shapes responses to environmental stress," says Marsh. "By better understanding how the environment can trigger genetic changes through the genes the polar worm turns on or 'expresses' we can gain insight into the potential impact of global warming on marine ecosystems."

Arriving in late August at McMurdo Station on Ross Island, Antarctica's largest outpost, Marsh and his research team undertook a series of dives in the freezing waters over the next two months to collect the polar sea worms, which are segmented like earthworms but belong to the class known as "polychaetes."

At a mere half-inch long and no thicker than the lead in a No. 2 pencil, Capitella perarmata would be a challenge to collect even on dry land. Because the worms feed on organic matter, the researchers have found the most abundant concentrations in the top layer of sediment from McMurdo Station's old sewage outfall. The divers collect buckets filled with sediment, from which the worms are sieved.

Just getting to the underwater site takes some doing, as UD doctoral student Annamarie Pasqualone points out. Pasqualone, who is from Medford, N.J., stayed on to complete the experiments in Crary Laboratory, McMurdo Station's science building. She will depart the frozen continent before Christmas to travel back to Delaware.

"A three-foot-diameter hole needs to be drilled through about seven feet of ice, and then a heated dive hut must be placed over the newly drilled hole in order to prevent it from freezing over -- and to keep the divers happy when they surface out of the seawater, which is at a temperature of minus one degree Celsius," she says.

Pasqualone has been assessing the worms' physiological and biochemical responses as they acclimate to an increase in environmental temperature from -1.5 degrees C to 4 degrees C in laboratory experiments. Additional experiments are under way in Marsh's lab at UD's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.

For this project, the Marsh laboratory is focusing on identifying epigenetic changes in DNA methylation in these worms -- in other words, how the environment is influencing the worms' genetic code. DNA methylation is a process in animals and plants where environmental signals are "imprinted" on genes in a genome by chemical modification of cytosineone of the bases of the DNA codeto 5'-methyl-cytosine. By tracking changes in metabolic activity and locating genes where methylation changes are active, the scientists will be able to pinpoint the types of genes involved in the temperature acclimation process.

Marsh says he hopes the results of the study will shed light on the ability of some Antarctic species to survive current levels of ocean warming.

"The coastal waters around Antarctica have been at very stable temperatures for millions of years," Marsh says. "This low-temperature environment has led to the evolution of many endemic polar marine species. As global sea-surface temperatures rise, temperatures in Antarctica will also increase. For animals that are used to constant cold conditions, even slight increases in temperature can have large impacts on survival."

Data yielded by the study on how extreme environmental conditions help shape genes and proteins also could have important economic applications.

Marsh and colleague Joe Grzymski at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada recently co-founded Evozym Biologics, a startup company, to accelerate the discovery of useful proteins for developing new antibiotic drugs and biofuels. The catalyst was their respective research on other Antarctic "extremophiles"soil microbes for Grzymski and Antarctic sea urchins for Marsh.

"This information has a huge potential for commercial use in the field of synthetic biology," Marsh notes. "Many of the industrial-scale processes that utilize enzymes require that these proteins are synthetically designed to work efficiently under extreme conditions. In bioreactors, for example, conditions of high heat or high acid are common and require bioengineered proteins for increased stability and catalytic efficiency."


'/>"/>
Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Plant-eating dinosaur discovered in Antarctica
2. Where Antarctic predatory seabirds overwinter
3. Climate change stunting growth of century-old Antarctic moss shoots
4. International team to drill beneath massive Antarctic ice shelf
5. RV Polarstern launches 28th Antarctic season
6. Antarctic killer whales may seek spa-like relief in the tropics
7. NASA, NOAA data show significant Antarctic ozone hole remains
8. Engineering team heads to Antarctica to explore hidden lake
9. Ancient glacial melting process similar to existing concerns about Antarctica, Greenland
10. Antarctic krill help to fertilize Southern Ocean with iron
11. Fossilized pollen reveals climate history of northern Antarctica
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Will Antarctic worms warm to changing climate?
(Date:3/8/2016)... 2016   Valencell , the leading innovator ... has secured $11M in Series D financing. The ... venture fund being launched by UAE-based financial services ... investors TDF Ventures and WSJ Joshua Fund. Valencell ... triple-digit growth and accelerate its pioneering innovation in ...
(Date:3/3/2016)... 3, 2016  2016FLEX, organized by FlexTech, a ... advancements in flexible, hybrid and printed electronics. More ... - have gathered for short courses, technical session, ... electronics. The Flex Conference celebrates its 15 th ... R&D organizations, and universities contributing to the adoption ...
(Date:3/2/2016)... http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/wzwqtz/global_biometrics ... "Global Biometrics Market in Hospitality Sector 2016-2020" ... , , Global biometrics market in the ... of around 27%   --> ... addition of the  "Global Biometrics Market in ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/28/2016)... April 28, 2016 Q ... the Company,s CEO  was featured in an article ... When VCs Fear To Tread: http://www.lifescienceleader.com/doc/accelerators-enter-when-vcs-fear-to-tread-0001 ... magazine is an essential business journal for ... emerging biotechs to Big Pharmas. Their content is ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... ... Cambridge Semantics, the leading provider of Smart Data analytic and ... named to The Silicon Review’s “20 Fastest Growing Big Data Companies of 2016.” ... needs of end users facing some of the most complex data challenges in the ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... and RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. ... UTHR ) announced today that Martine ... United Therapeutics will provide an overview and update on ... Annual Health Care Conference. The presentation ... 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, and can be accessed via ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... MIAMI (PRWEB) , ... April 27, 2016 , ... ... joined the GSCG Advisory Board. Ross is the founder of GSCG affiliate Kimera Labs ... of Miami, where he studied hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for hematologic disorders and the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: