Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Single-cell marine predator's unique survival mechanisms revealed

Date:
February 10, 2011
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Researchers have uncovered the unique survival mechanisms of a marine organism that may be tiny, but in some ways has surpassed sharks in its predatory efficiency.

Oxyrrhis marina has evolved extreme survival mechanisms, including acquiring a gene from its prey to convert light into energy.
Credit: Susana Breglia

University of British Columbia researchers have uncovered the unique survival mechanisms of a marine organism that may be tiny, but in some ways has surpassed sharks in its predatory efficiency.

Published February 8 in the journal Nature Communications, the research team's portrait of the microscopic dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina reveals a predator so efficient that it has even acquired a gene from its prey.

"It's an interesting case of Lateral Gene Transfer, or the movement of genes between distantly related species," says Patrick Keeling, a UBC botany professor and one of the study's authors.

"Our study shows that Oxyrrhis marina has picked up a gene commonly used by marine bacteria for photosynthesis. Oxyrrhis probably got this gene by eating the bacteria, but the really interesting part is that the gene produces a protein called rhodopsin, which is a photoreceptor that can make energy from light."

Humans possess similar proteins in our eyes, called opsin, that enable vision in low-light conditions, but cannot produce energy.

"It is very much a case of 'you are what you eat,' because Oxyrrhis marina has so much rhodopsin in its system that it has assumed the protein's signature pink colour," says Keeling. "Our hypothesis is that it is using the rhodopsin to harvest energy from light -- as bacteria often do -- but we think that it also uses the energy to help digest its prey, some of which were the original supplier of the gene. It is a really neat mix of metabolic strategies."

Oxyrrhis marina is part of a family of marine plankton that also includes the organisms responsible for harmful red tides. It is common in shallow waters such as tide pools around the world, including along the British Columbia coast. It has evolved extreme survival mechanisms, including the ones described in the UBC study. Oxyrrhis marina can cannibalize its own species when no other prey is available.

"It definitely deserves to be called a predator -- it can feed on cells almost as big as itself," says Keeling, director of the Centre for Microbial Diversity and Evolution and a member of Beaty Biodiversity Research Centre at UBC. "It is also extremely tough to kill it."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Claudio H. Slamovits, Noriko Okamoto, Lena Burri, Erick R. James, Patrick J. Keeling. A bacterial proteorhodopsin proton pump in marine eukaryotes. Nature Communications, 2011; 2: 183 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1188

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Single-cell marine predator's unique survival mechanisms revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208112649.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2011, February 10). Single-cell marine predator's unique survival mechanisms revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208112649.htm
University of British Columbia. "Single-cell marine predator's unique survival mechanisms revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208112649.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. 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