Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Antarctic Sea Urchin Shows Amazing Energy-Efficiency In Nature's Deep Freeze

Date:
March 15, 2001
Source:
University Of Delaware
Summary:
Brrrr! How well do you think you would grow if you lived in a freezer? Adam Marsh, a marine biochemist at the University of Delaware, and colleagues Rob Maxson and Donal Manahan from the University of Southern California, have discovered an important reason why the pincushion-like Antarctic sea urchin (Sterechinus neumayeri) can function so well in the polar seas surrounding the Earth’s frozen continent.

Brrrr! How well do you think you would grow if you lived in a freezer? Adam Marsh, a marine biochemist at the University of Delaware, and colleagues Rob Maxson and Donal Manahan from the University of Southern California, have discovered an important reason why the pincushion-like Antarctic sea urchin (Sterechinus neumayeri) can function so well in the polar seas surrounding the Earth’s frozen continent.

The Antarctic sea urchin demonstrates a remarkable economy, a super energy-efficiency in its metabolism. Despite frigid water temperatures and little available food, its babies can synthesize proteins more efficiently than any other organism recorded to date. The scientists’ findings are reported in the March 9 edition of Science.

“All animals expend about 30% of their energy just turning over proteins,” says Marsh. “But the embryos and larvae of the Antarctic sea urchin can perform this vital metabolic process using 25 times less energy than the rest of us. That’s really amazing,” he notes, “especially considering the extreme environment in which these larvae live and an almost non-existent food supply.”

The Antarctic sea urchin resembles a red pincushion, about 5 inches in diameter, with long spines extending from its round shell. It lives on the seafloor and uses its spines and sucker-tipped tube feet to move about. Baby sea urchins are spawned during the summer months and take about a year to develop from embryo to larva to juvenile — a stage that is a miniature version of the adult.

To collect sea urchins for their study, Marsh and his colleagues traveled periodically to McMurdo Station, a research outpost on Ross Island, Antarctica. The scientists cut holes in the 8-foot-thick sea ice and inched down a tow rope into the freezing water wearing insulated diving suits that covered all but their faces. Their lips and cheeks would go numb after 60 seconds of exposure.

Once the sea urchins were collected from the seafloor, they were taken to McMurdo Station’s Crary Laboratory for experiments. On several occasions, the animals were flown back to the lab by helicopter. “The problem with collecting marine animals in Antarctica is not keeping them cold during the trip back to the lab but to keep the seawater in the coolers from freezing solid during the trip,” Marsh explains.

Housed in the lab in the cold water pumped in from McMurdo Sound, the female sea urchins were induced to spawn and the eggs were fertilized. The scientists then began measuring the changes in total metabolic rates as the embryos developed into larvae, along with corresponding changes in the rate of protein turnover, or metabolism. More than 10 million embryos were tested during the three-year project.

So what does identifying the most energy-efficient animal mean to the rest of us, besides making us feel metabolically inadequate?

“We know the Antarctic sea urchin can process proteins using less energy than anyone else,” Marsh says, “but we don’t know yet what mechanism allows the animal to do so much with so little. Finding the answer could yield some important benefits,” he notes. “For example, if you could incorporate this energy-efficiency into a fish, oyster, or clam, you could feed it less food and get the same growth rate. That kind of capability would be a great boon to aquaculture.”

Note: This research was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs.During this project, Adam Marsh was a postdoc at the University of Southern California, working with principal investigator Donal Manahan. Marsh joined the faculty of the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies in 2000.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Delaware. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Delaware. "Antarctic Sea Urchin Shows Amazing Energy-Efficiency In Nature's Deep Freeze." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 March 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010309080313.htm>.
University Of Delaware. (2001, March 15). Antarctic Sea Urchin Shows Amazing Energy-Efficiency In Nature's Deep Freeze. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010309080313.htm
University Of Delaware. "Antarctic Sea Urchin Shows Amazing Energy-Efficiency In Nature's Deep Freeze." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010309080313.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins