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.

Related Articles


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 October 24, 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 October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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