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Wed, Feb

Bacteria collaborate to propel the ocean 'engine'

Typography

Essential microbiological interactions that keep our oceans stable have been fully revealed for the first time, by researchers at the University of Warwick.

Dr Joseph Christie-Oleza and Professor David Scanlan from the School of Life Sciences have discovered that two of the most abundant types of microorganism in the oceans – phototrophic and heterotrophic bacteria – collaborate to cycle nutrients, consequently, drawing carbon from the atmosphere and feeding the ecosystem.

Essential microbiological interactions that keep our oceans stable have been fully revealed for the first time, by researchers at the University of Warwick.

Dr Joseph Christie-Oleza and Professor David Scanlan from the School of Life Sciences have discovered that two of the most abundant types of microorganism in the oceans – phototrophic and heterotrophic bacteria – collaborate to cycle nutrients, consequently, drawing carbon from the atmosphere and feeding the ecosystem.

This is contrary to the popular scientific belief that marine phototrophs and heterotrophs compete with each other to consume the scarce nutrients found in seawater.

Phototrophic bacteria use light to ‘fix’ carbon dioxide from the air, and convert this into organic matter – which leaks out, and is consumed by heterotrophs, which in turn release nutrients back to the ecosystem so the phototrophic bacteria can continue to do their job: photosynthesise and fix more carbon.

Read more at University of Warwick

Image: This is a representation of phototrophic and heterotrophic bacteria in the ocean. Credit: University of Warwick