Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New plant genus, species discovered in St. Johns River, Florida

Date:
July 8, 2011
Source:
Florida State University
Summary:
Remarkable for their exquisite, glass-like cell walls in every imaginable 3-D shape and pattern -- and important for their role as bio-indicators of water quality -- diatoms are the predominant group of microscopic, single-celled algae at the base of the aquatic food chain. Biologists have now identified a new diatom genus and species.

Magnified image of the new genus and species of diatoms, Livingstonia palatkaensis.
Credit: Image courtesy of Florida State University

Remarkable for their exquisite, glass-like cell walls in every imaginable 3-D shape and pattern -- and important for their role as bio-indicators of water quality -- diatoms are the predominant group of microscopic, single-celled algae at the base of the aquatic food chain.

For 35 million years or more the prolific plants have thrived in every freshwater, brackish and marine environment on Earth. Scientists estimate the number of diatom species at anywhere from 10,000 to 10 million. Given the nearly impossible task of discerning minuscule cell-wall differences among them all using commonly available light-microscopy techniques, only a fraction have been isolated and positively identified.

Now, make that a fraction plus one.

Using state-of-the-art electron microscopy at Florida State University, FSU biologist Akshinthala K.S.K. Prasad recently identified a new diatom genus and species, and he didn't have to look far to find it. He discovered the novel diatom in a seven-year-old sample of material that a colleague had collected from the St. Johns River in Northeast Florida's Putnam County. Consultations with international diatom experts helped to confirm that what he was seeing was something entirely new at the genus level and undocumented at the species level.

"Our discovery is both exciting and humbling because it underscores what we still don't know about our aquatic environment," Prasad said.

FSU biologist Akshinthala Prasad discusses his discovery of a new diatom genus and species, named Livingstonia palatkaensis, in a sample collected from the St. Johns River in Northeast Florida's Putnam County.

"The St. Johns is not in some far-off land," he said. "It is a major medium-sized river in the southeastern United States and the largest river in Florida in both length and magnitude of its drainage basin. Its biology has been monitored by a variety of groups for a number of years.

"And yet, suddenly, in large numbers, a previously unrecognized plant form appears."

And not just any form, notes Prasad. This new diatom is part of an old plant family that dates back to the Mesozoic Era and boasts one of Earth's most abundant, diverse and biogeochemically active lineages of photosynthetic eukaryotes -- organisms whose cells contain complex structures enclosed in membranes.

In collaboration with FSU doctoral alumnus James A. Nienow, now a biology professor at Valdosta (Ga.) State University, Prasad has named the newfound diatom Livingstonia palatkaensis. The designation honors Prasad's longtime FSU research colleague Professor Emeritus Robert J. Livingston, an ecologist whose grant funded an earlier study that produced the key St. Johns River sample. The name also recognizes Palatka, Fla., the town near the sample collection site.

Prasad and Nienow describe the identification of Livingstonia palatkaensis in a paper published in the journal Phycologia.

Both as fossils and living organisms, diatoms are attracting increasing attention from science and industry. The tiny plants reflect declining water quality, sometimes doing so with algal blooms known as red tides. They serve as markers during oil exploration, and in forensic investigations. They are used in analyzing various ecological problems such as acidification and climate change, both in freshwater and marine environments.

Meanwhile, diatoms are captivating casual observers and scientists alike thanks to 21st-century imaging techniques that reveal beautifully sculpted, highly ornamented architectural designs in never-before-seen detail.

"In these days of rapid industrial changes and inevitable technological advancement," said Prasad, "it is amazing to realize that a large group of single-celled plants have been living in glass houses for at least 35 to 40 million years and still find this a successful mode of existence."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Akshinthala K. S. K. Prasad, James A. Nienow. Livingstonia (Thalassiosirales, Bacillariophyta), a new genus of fultoportulate centric diatoms from an Atlantic coastal plain river in Florida, southeastern United States. Phycologia, 2011; 50 (3): 264 DOI: 10.2216/09-89.1

Cite This Page:

Florida State University. "New plant genus, species discovered in St. Johns River, Florida." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707131426.htm>.
Florida State University. (2011, July 8). New plant genus, species discovered in St. Johns River, Florida. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707131426.htm
Florida State University. "New plant genus, species discovered in St. Johns River, Florida." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707131426.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. 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