As an undergraduate, Kim Davies worked with Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, biology professor at the University Victoria, examining how mussels have adapted to extremely acidic waters near underwater volcanoes. The paper she co-authored will be published in the May issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.
“It’s such a euphoric feeling to see that something I did as an undergrad is regarded as important science,” says Ms. Davies, a PhD student at Dalhousie whose research is now focused on the feeding ecology of the North Atlantic right whale. “Wow, it’s so great just to see your name in a high-level journal.”
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted to the atmosphere by human activities is being absorbed by the oceans, making them more acidic. Evidence indicates that emissions of carbon dioxide from human activities over the past two centuries have already led to a reduction in the average pH of surface seawater. Because acidification affects the process of calcification, the impact is severe on marine animals like corals, plankton and mollusks which have shells or plates.
So what happens to these animals over time? That’s what the researchers wanted to find out by examining vent mussels (Bathymodiolus brevior) living on the side of submarine volcanoes. The mussels, which have a calcium carbonate skeleton, are under constant stress, bathed by carbon dioxide bubbling out of the ground and from hydro-thermal vents deep beneath the surface.
And yet some of the mussels, gathered by remotely operated vehicles along the Mariano volcanic arc near Japan, were determined to be more than 40 years old and had physiologically adapted to living in their extreme environment.
The researchers discovered the mussels grew much slower than mussels in other areas and their shells were very thin. As well, the mussels’ shells were completely covered with protective protein coverings; any breach of that outer layer would quickly destroy the mussel by dissolving the underlying calcium carbonate.
“Their shells—you could see right through them,” says Ms. Davies, who did the lab analysis of samples gathered some 1,500 metres below the surface. “And yet, this species of mussels was able to adapt and build up a tolerance living close to these hydro-thermal vents as long as their protective covering was intact.”
She surmised mussels in other areas would be more vulnerable to ocean acidification because of crabs that scurry over them and wear away at their protective covering. Those predators were absent in the mussel beds near the hydro-thermal vents.
Charles Crosby | Newswise Science News
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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