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Diatoms from Puget Sound, Wash.

Diatoms from Puget Sound, Wash.

Diatoms from Puget Sound, Wash. Diatoms--tiny phytoplankton abundant in the sea--are a critical part of the marine environment.

A research team from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and other institutions discovered that diatoms have an animal-like urea cycle, and that this cycle enables the diatoms to efficiently use carbon and nitrogen from their environment. The team believes the cycle could be a reason for the domination of diatoms in marine environments, especially after upwelling events--the upward movement of nutrient rich waters from the deep ocean to the surface. In response to ocean upwelling, diatoms are able to quickly recover from prolonged periods of nutrient deprivation and rapidly proliferate.

The study--supported in part by the National Science Foundation--has provided a fascinating insight into how diatoms have evolved to become the dominant primary producers in many ocean regions.

Read more about this research in the NSF press release Scientists discover animal-like urea cycle in tiny diatoms in the ocean. (Date of Image: 2011)

Credit: Adrian Marchetti, University of Washington, and Andrew Allen, JCVI
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