Scientists have confirmed that marine algae viruses known as diatoms can kill and divert nutrients from organic algae at other algae, according to studies conducted by Rutgers.
The study in the journal Nature Microbiology It also pointed out that environmental conditions can accelerate diatom mortality from viral infection, which is important to understand how diatoms affect carbon cycling and respond to changes in the oceans, including heated waters from climate change. Diatoms, which are single-cell algae that generate around 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen, help to store carbon dioxide, a main greenhouse gas, in the oceans.
"In this knowledge, this is the first time that various stages of infection have been diagnosed in natural diatomite populations and it suggests that diatom populations may be wound up with viruses," said senior author Kim Thamatrakoln, an associate research professor in the world. Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "Our study showed that when silicon levels in the sea are low, diatoms can be infected and slaughtered faster by viruses and then they are more likely to release their nutrients and other surface ocean materials instead of going underwater."
From Victorian times, Diatoms were given "ocean glass houses" because of their beautiful cell walls of silicon dioxide, or glass. Silicon is essential for growth of diatoms, but since glass is heavy, diatoms can go to the deep ocean when they die. This means that their nutrients, carbon content and organic materials are not available for surface recycling by other algae that do not require sunlight except in the upper ocean.
Diatoms are infected by the world's smallest viruses and are believed to be immune once because of their glass-based armor. Such viruses have traditionally escaped detection through traditional methods and little was known about how they affect diatoms. So the scientists studied what drives and ends diatom fragments in the Heart of California, a Pacific stream flowing south along the coast. Scientists have received specific areas from untamed diatom populations to highly infected populations.
They also found that some populations had dice and that the silicon level was the strongest prediction of viral infection. Diatoms build up silicon dissolved from the environment and carry glass for their cell walls. However, most diatom-resident surface waters have low levels of silicon, so these results can play an important role in controlling diatom populations across the world.
Chana F. Kranzler is the principal author, Simons Foundation's postdoctoral member in the Thamatrakoln laboratory. Joint authors include Rutgers' undergraduate student, William P. Biggs; Professor Kay D. Bidle in the Department of Marine Sciences and Rutgers Coast; and scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, University of California and University of South Alabama.
Materials provided by Rutgers University. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.
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