Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Glow and be eaten: Marine bacteria use light to lure plankton and fish

Date:
February 26, 2012
Source:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Summary:
Not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes it is just bacteria trying to get ahead in life. Many sea creatures glow with a biologically produced light. This phenomenon, known as bioluminescence, is observed, among others, in some marine bacteria which emit a steady light once they have reached a certain level of concentration (a phenomenon called "quorum sensing") on organic particles in ocean waters. Though this was a known occurrence, the benefits of producing light remained unclear. Now, researchers have unraveled the mystery of why the marine bacteria glow. It has to do with what might be called "the survival of the brightest."

Zooplankton after ingesting glowing bacteria.
Credit: Image courtesy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes it is just bacteria trying to get ahead in life. Many sea creatures glow with a biologically produced light. This phenomenon, known as bioluminescence, is observed, among others, in some marine bacteria which emit a steady light once they have reached a certain level of concentration (a phenomenon called "quorum sensing") on organic particles in ocean waters.

Related Articles


Though this was a known occurrence, the benefits of producing light remained unclear.

Now, in an article published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have unraveled the mystery of why the marine bacteria glow. It has to do with what might be called "the survival of the brightest."

The article is based on the research carried out at the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat by graduate student Margarita Zarubin, under the supervision of Prof. Amatzia Genin, the head of the Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in collaboration with Prof. Shimshon Belkin and his student Michael Ionescu of the Hebrew University's Silberman Institute of Life Sciences.

Their findings show that the light emitted by the bacteria attracts predators, generally zooplankton, which ingest the bacteria but are unable to digest them. The bacteria, which continue to glow inside the zooplankton's guts, reveal the presence of the now-glowing zooplankton, which in turn, are attacked by their own predators -- fish -- who can spot them readily in the dark.

In experiments conducted by the researchers in total darkness, they found that nocturnal fish were easily able to detect the glowing zooplankton and eat them, while, on the other hand, the fish were not attracted to zooplankton that had swallowed bacteria that had undergone genetic mutation and thus did not glow.

Further investigation of nocturnal fish that had fed on zooplankton showed that the luminous bacteria also survived the passage through the fish guts. "As far as the bacteria are concerned, their access to the fish digestive systems is like reaching 'paradise' -- a safe place, full of nutrients, and also a means of transport into the wide ocean," explained Prof. Genin.

On the other hand, the finding that some zooplankton are attracted to the glow of the bacteria and consume the luminous matter seems to be in contradiction to their own survival instincts, since it increases the chances of the zooplankton being attacked and eaten by fish. The phenomenon of quorum sensing that regulates bacterial bioluminescence can explain this finding, say the researchers. The zooplankton "know" that a light in the water indicates the presence of a rich presence of organic material on which the bacteria grow.

"In the dark, deep ocean the quantity of food is very limited, therefore it is worthwhile for the zooplankton to take the risk of becoming glowing themselves when contacting and consuming the particle with glowing bacteria, since the profit of finding rare food there is greater than the danger of exposing themselves to the relatively rare presence of predatory fish," explained Prof. Genin.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Zarubin, S. Belkin, M. Ionescu, A. Genin. From the Cover: Bacterial bioluminescence as a lure for marine zooplankton and fish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; 109 (3): 853 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1116683109

Cite This Page:

Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Glow and be eaten: Marine bacteria use light to lure plankton and fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120226153547.htm>.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (2012, February 26). Glow and be eaten: Marine bacteria use light to lure plankton and fish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120226153547.htm
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Glow and be eaten: Marine bacteria use light to lure plankton and fish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120226153547.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
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