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Press Release 10-121

Tiny Marine Microbes Exert Influence on Global Climate

Observations show that microorganisms display a behavior characteristic of larger animals

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Image showing trajectories of Oxyrrhis marina in a patch of DMSP in the ocean.

Trajectories of Oxyrrhis marina, a marine plankton, are shown in a patch of DMSP. Yellow trajectories represent individuals with the fastest response; blue trajectories are individuals within the patch, and orange denotes all other trajectories. Circles indicate the starting point of each trajectory.

Credit: Roman Stocker and Tanvir Ahmed


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Marine microbes--though invisible to the naked eye--perform functions that are vital for the health of the ocean. With no vision or hearing, they navigate their environment by following chemical signals. One of these chemicals, DMSP, elicits attraction among several marine microorganisms. The movies, taken in microfluidic channels, show the predator Oxyrrhis marina responding rapidly to a patch of DMSP, then retaining position within the patch.

Credit: Roman Stocker, Tanvir Ahmed, Rafel Simó, Justin Seymour (MIT)

 

An image of the microchannel used in the experiments.

An image of the microchannel used in the scientists' experiments.

Credit: Tanvir Ahmed and Roman Stocker


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Illustration showing chemoattraction throughout the ocean's microbial food webs.

Marine scientists have discovered 'chemoattraction' throughout the ocean's microbial food webs.

Credit: U.S. Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS)


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Cover of the July 16, 2010 issue of the journal Science.

The researchers' findings are described in the July 16th issue of the journal Science.

Credit: Copyright AAAS 2010


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