S. Biller/Chisholm Lab
Superabundant bacteria in the ocean routinely sacrifice parts of themselves, scientists have discovered. This sacrifice, in which bacteria pinch off minuscule spheres called vesicles, may influence climate change by affecting how much carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb.
Photosynthetic bacteria in the genus Prochlorococcus shed two to five vesicles a day, researchers led by biological oceanographer Sallie Chisholm of MIT report in the Jan. 10 Science. Each vesicle is a membrane-wrapped bubble with about one-sixth the diameter of the bacteria and is packed with lipids, proteins, RNA and even DNA. Together, the hordes of bacteria may cast off 10,000 to 100,000 metric tons of organic carbon into the ocean each day in these parcels, Chisholm’s team calculates.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.