Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacterial communication could affect Earth's climate, researchers discover

Date:
October 13, 2011
Source:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Summary:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists have discovered that bacterial communication could have a significant impact on the planet's climate.

Tiny marine plants (phytoplankton) die or are eaten by tiny marine animals (zooplankton) which defecate into the water. All this detritus is sticky and agglomerates into heavier particles that sink. This epifluorescence micrograph of a stained gelatinous particle (about 200 microns in size) was harvested from a particle trap set 60 meters deep in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia, Canada, in 2009. Note individual microbial cells (about 0.5 to 2 microns in length) embedded in gelatinous material together with other plankton "hard parts."
Credit: Photo by Tracy Mincer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists have discovered that bacterial communication could have a significant impact on the planet's climate.

Related Articles


In the ocean, bacteria coalesce on tiny particles of carbon-rich detritus sinking through the depths. WHOI marine biogeochemists Laura Hmelo, Benjamin Van Mooy, and Tracy Mincer found that these bacteria send out chemical signals to discern if other bacteria are in the neighborhood. If enough of their cohorts are nearby, then bacteria en masse commence secreting enzymes that break up the carbon-containing molecules within the particles into more digestible bits. It has been suggested that coordinated expression of enzymes is very advantageous for bacteria on sinking particles, and Hmelo and her colleagues have uncovered the first proof of this in the ocean.

"We don't often think about bacteria making group decisions, but that is exactly what our data suggest is happening," said Hmelo, now at the University of Washington.

The paper is published in the current online, "early view," issue of Environmental Microbiology Reports.

The source of carbon in the particles is atmospheric carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Bacterial communication could lead to the release of carbon from the particles at shallower depths, rather than sinking to the ocean's depths. According to the WHOI scientists, this means that bacterial communication results in less carbon dioxide being drawn out of the air and transferred to the bottom of the ocean from where it cannot easily return to the atmosphere. This represents the first evidence that bacterial communication plays a crucial role in Earth's carbon cycle.

"So microscopic bacteria buffer the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through their 'conversations,' " Van Mooy said. "I think it's amazing that there are a near- infinite number of these conversations going on in the ocean right now, and they are affecting Earth's carbon cycle."

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Laura R. Hmelo, Tracy J. Mincer, Benjamin A. S. Van Mooy. Possible influence of bacterial quorum sensing on the hydrolysis of sinking particulate organic carbon in marine environments. Environmental Microbiology Reports, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1758-2229.2011.00281.x

Cite This Page:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Bacterial communication could affect Earth's climate, researchers discover." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012151718.htm>.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (2011, October 13). Bacterial communication could affect Earth's climate, researchers discover. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012151718.htm
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Bacterial communication could affect Earth's climate, researchers discover." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012151718.htm (accessed November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Buzz60 (Nov. 20, 2014) Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer teamed up with entomologist Aaron Pomerantz and others to investigate a predatory glow worm found in the Amazon. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
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