Thinking about phytoplankton

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Published on: October 16, 2012
H. akashiwo on the right, with predator Favella sp.

I’m aware phytoplankton are not usual subjects for plant science research, but these small algae are quite plant-like, in general – although they don’t have organs to complicate things. Like plants, they photosynthesize and are able to respond to their environment. Importantly, unlike plants, phytoplankton are mobile, hence the name which in Greek means ‘drifting plants’. Being extremely tiny ‘plants’, phytoplankton present an excellent opportunity for plant scientists to consider synthetic biology, which seems more feasible on a cell-scale rather than an entire plant. The super-theme of the FP7 2013 funding call was ‘The Oceans of Tomorrow,’ and while that call closes in a few short months, synthetic biology, water security and bio-sensors are important research themes which are here to stay.

Highlighted article: Elizabeth L. Harvey and Susanne Menden-Deuer (2012) Predator-Induced Fleeing Behaviors in Phytoplankton: A New Mechanism for Harmful Algal Bloom Formation? PLoS ONE 7(9): e46438. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046438

This research focuses on toxic phytoplankton Heterosigma akashiwo, a known cause of harmful algal blooms (HABs; for a fairly recent review of HABs and their effects on human health, see Backer and McGillicuddy Jr., 2006). (more…)

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