Tag Archives: MIT News

MIT scientists discovered an amazing amount of diversity among a population of marine microbes living in a few drops of water. Each subpopulation of the marine microbe Prochlorococcus is characterized by a shared genomic "backbone." The figurative backbones are depicted in this artist's rendering.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle. Continue reading

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For the Good of the Colony

For some microbes, the motto for growth is not so much “every cell for itself,” but rather, “all for one and one for all.”

MIT researchers have found that cells in a bacterial colony grow in a way that benefits the community as a whole. That is, while an individual cell may divide in the presence of plentiful resources to benefit itself, when a cell is a member of a larger colony, it may choose instead to grow in a more cooperative fashion, increasing an entire colony’s chance of survival.

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Winners and losers in a warming ocean

by Alli Gold Roberts (MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change)
Read this story at MIT News

Phytoplankton — small plant-like organisms that serve as the base of the marine ecosystem — play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our oceans by consuming carbon dioxide and fueling the food web. But with a changing climate, which of these vital organisms will survive, and what impact will their demise have on fish higher up the chain?
Stephanie Dutkiewicz, a researcher with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and her colleagues developed a model that investigates the potential effects of climate change on phytoplankton.

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Ecological balancing act

“Phytoplankton diversity depends on balance between competition and the ocean’s physical dynamics, new research suggests”

By Morgan Bettex, MIT News Office

Read this story at MIT News

Phytoplankton are single-celled organisms that serve as the base of the marine food web and provide half the oxygen we breathe on Earth. They also play a key role in global climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere and injecting it deep into the oceans.

Scientists study phytoplankton to understand how the tiny plants help transport elements like carbon through the environment. Although they understand much of what phytoplankton do, less is understood about why particular plankton live in particular environments and what maintains the diversity of phytoplankton.

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