Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

Oceans are a major gene swap-meet for plankton

"New evidence from open sea experiments shows there's a constant shuffling of genetic endowments going on among tiny plankton, and the 'coinage' they use seems to be a flood of viruses, MIT scientists report.

The research, led by MIT Professor Sally W. Chisholm, is uncovering a challenging new facet of evolution, helping scientists see how photosynthesizing microbes manage to exploit changing conditions such as altered light, temperature and nutrients.

The work will be reported in two articles in the March 24 issue of Science.

As a result of the new findings, 'we are beginning to get a picture of gene diversity and gene flow in the most abundant photosynthetic cell on the planet, the Prochlorococcus group of planktonic microbes,' said Chisholm, the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies. "

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