Lauren Cox reports on the transformative power of one species of algae.
GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Bruce Gellerman. Coming up: tea and tradition for two with a British tea master. But first this Note on Emerging Science from Lauren Cox.
[MUSIC: Anonymous “Transformers (Cartoon TV Theme)” from ‘The Transformers’ (1980’s)]
COX: When danger is near, the autobots in this summer’s blockbuster Transformers movie don’t turn to fight-or-flight, they change form. And just like the alien autobots morph when confronted by a foe, so does a species of algae native to earth.
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered that a common species of ocean algae can dramatically change its shape and size to escape being eaten. The algae, called Phaeocystis, can detect what kind of sea creature is nearby from chemical signals in the water, it can then morph from a tiny single cell into a giant complex colony, or vice versa. The transformation is on the same magnitude as a single mosquito morphing into a dense swarm 70 times bigger than a blue.
By using the transforming trick, algae can increase their chance of survival by a hundred fold, and understanding the algae’s ability to transform might help us survive.
Algae absorb a significant amount of the carbon dioxide in the ocean, and the size the algae takes can determine where the greenhouse gas goes once the algae is eaten… If it’s a large colony it sinks to the ocean floor…if it’s a single cell, it stays near the ocean’s surface where there’s a greater chance it will be released back in the atmosphere.
Obviously, when it comes to algae in the ocean…there’s a lot more than meets the eye. That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Lauren Cox.
[MUSIC: 2.) Mutemath “Transformers Theme” from ‘Transformers: The Movie’ (Warner Bros. – 2007)]
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth