Tag Archives | Algae

The Biology of Altruistic Suicide

Pic: Neon_JA (CC)

Pic: Neon_JA (CC)

Kanina Foss writing at the University of the Witwatersrand:

The question of why an individual would actively kill itself has been an evolutionary mystery. Death could hardly provide a fitness advantage to the dying individual. However, a new study has found that in single-celled algae, suicide benefits the organism’s relatives.

“Death can be altruistic – we showed that before – but now we know that programmed cell death benefits the organism’s relatives and not just anybody,” says Dr Pierre Durand from the Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology and the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) at Wits University.

When Durand and his colleagues from the University of Arizona released the results of their first study on suicide in single-celled algae in 2011, they showed that when an organism commits suicide by digesting up its own body, it releases nutrients into the environment that can be used by other organisms.

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“Alien Algae” Found On Upper Stratosphere Research Balloon

alien algae

Evidence that Earth was “seeded” by life from above? Medical Daily reports:

Did a British research balloon pick up extraterrestrial life as it skimmed the stratosphere during the annual Perseid meteor shower?

Yes, [says] astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe and his fellow scientists, who claim that the microscopic algae detected on the balloon’s sterile slides “can only have come from space.” In a study presented at the Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology conference in San Diego, Calif. last month, the team theorized that the seeds are constantly transported between planets by asteroids, comets, and other cosmic wanderers.

“The entities varied from a presumptive colony of ultra-small bacteria to two unusual individual organisms – part of a diatom frustule and a 200 micron-sized particle mass interlaced with biofilm and biological filaments.”

The presence of stratospheric life would back the panspermia hypothesis – the popular astrobiological view that life is promulgated by itinerant repositories of microorganisms that “impregnate” planets.

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New Life Blooming Under Melting North Pole

How long before someone starts marketing pure polar algae? Pete Spotts reports for the Christian Science Monitor:
Scientists have discovered a vast pea-soup-green bloom of tiny plant-like marine organisms under Arctic Ocean ice. The bloom represents an enormous, and until now, unknown reservoir of food for marine life in frigid waters at the top of the world. These waters, in sum, appear to be far more biologically productive than previously believed. "This wasn't just any phytoplankton bloom," says Kevin Arrigo, a Stanford University marine scientist and lead author of the study. "It was literally the most intense phytoplankton bloom I've ever seen in my 25 years of doing this type of research" in oceans around the world. The scientists sampled only a relatively small section of ice above...
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