Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How tiny organisms make a big impact on clean water

Date:
October 15, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Nearly every body of water contains microscopic organisms that live attached to rocks, plants, and animals. These sessile suspension feeders are critical to aquatic ecosystems and play an important role in cleaning up environmental contaminants by consuming bacteria. A study reveals that by changing the angle of their bodies relative to the surfaces, these feeders overcome the physical constraints presented by underwater surfaces, maximize their access to fresh, nutrient-rich water, and filter the surrounding water.

Vorticella with nutrients and without nutrients.
Credit: Pepper et al., Biophysical Journal

Nearly every body of water, from a puddle or a pond to a vast ocean, contains microscopic organisms that live attached to rocks, plants, and animals. These so-called sessile suspension feeders are critical to aquatic ecosystems and play an important role in cleaning up environmental contaminants by consuming bacteria. A study published by Cell Press on October 15 in the Biophysical Journal reveals that by actively changing the angle of their bodies relative to the surfaces, these feeders overcome the physical constraints presented by underwater surfaces, maximize their access to fresh, nutrient-rich water, and filter the surrounding water.

"Our findings will allow scientists to make better estimates about how much water each of these tiny organisms can filter and clean, which can help us to make better estimates about how quickly bodies of water can recover after contamination caused by oil spills and sewage leaks," says lead study author Rachel Pepper of the University of California, Berkeley.

Microscopic sessile suspension feeders, which are made up of only one or a few cells, use hair-like or whip-like appendages to draw nutrient-rich fluid toward their bodies, filtering up to 25% of the seawater in coastal areas each day. Because they live attached to surfaces, they potentially face several challenges while they feed. For example, currents encounter resistance and slow down when they flow across these surfaces, interfering with the ability of suspension feeders to efficiently extract nutrients. The way that currents interact with surfaces may also cause water to recirculate around suspension feeders after the nutrients have been consumed.

To examine how the tiny organisms overcome these challenges, Pepper and her team used a combination of experiments and calculations. They observed that a protozoan called Vorticella convallaria actively changes its body orientation relative to the surface to which it is attached, in contrast to previous models, which assumed that sessile suspension feeders always feed at a perpendicular angle. The new model revealed that feeding at a parallel or other non-perpendicular angle substantially increases the amount of nutrients the organisms can extract from their surroundings by reducing both fluid resistance and the recirculation of nutrient-depleted water.

"We know very little about the processes microbes use to remove and recycle contaminants," Pepper says. "Our study shows that fluid flows at the scale of individual small organisms, when aggregated, can be important contributors to maintaining the quality of natural waters."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. RachelE. Pepper, Marcus Roper, Sangjin Ryu, Nobuyoshi Matsumoto, Moeto Nagai, HowardA. Stone. A New Angle on Microscopic Suspension Feeders near Boundaries. Biophysical Journal, 2013; 105 (8): 1796 DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.08.029

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "How tiny organisms make a big impact on clean water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015123523.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, October 15). How tiny organisms make a big impact on clean water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015123523.htm
Cell Press. "How tiny organisms make a big impact on clean water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015123523.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. 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