Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Out of the Ocean – How algae convert sea water into chalk shells

12.05.2016

An international research team headed by André Scheffel from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and by scientists from the Biomaterials department of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces analyzed the chalk production in a group of marine algae known as coccolithophores. These algae have a strong influence on our climate and their fossilized chalk products give information about past environmental conditions. The researchers found a so far unknown cellular component, which appears to be the main calcium hub in the cells and to influence the incorporation of environmental traces into the chalk. Their research is published in the journal Nature Communications

Algae are true all-rounders. In East-Asian countries they are a staple food. But this is not all they have to offer. They are fascinating and highly adaptable organisms, living almost everywhere there is water – in the ocean, in lakes, or even in puddles and in the snow. With ca. 40.000 known species, algae play an essential role in the environment and for humanity.


Emiliana huxleyi and other marine algae resides within chalk shells called coccoliths. Fossil coccoliths open a window to the climate in the past while contemporary coccoliths influences our climate.

André Scheffel, MPI-MP

The marine microalga Emiliania huxleyi is one of the key phytoplankton species and lives in a solid house assembled from chalky platelets which scientists refer to as coccoliths. After death of the algae, the chalky shell sinks to the ocean floor and becomes an abundant component of sea-floor carbonates.

Over millions of years these shells have accumulated to form thick sediment layers, with the chalk cliff of the German island of Rügen being a prominent example. Due to the incorporation of trace elements from the waters surrounding the cells into the chalk structures, which are produced inside the cells, the chemical composition of these sediments can give information about the climate and environment of the past.

Nevertheless, the mechanism of chalk production in calcareous algae (“coccolithophores”) is poorly understood so far. An international research team led by André Scheffel from the MPIMP and Damien Faivre from the MPICI in Potsdam-Golm has now analyzed the processes of chalk production in the dominant marine alga Emiliana huxleyi.

This unicellular alga produces one chalk disk after the other inside the cell and moves them outside upon completion. In this way the outer shell is produced. The production of each chalk scale takes place inside a membrane-bound compartment, called the coccolith vesicle.

Based on microscopic and spectroscopic techniques the team was able to identify an additional, to date undiscovered calcium reservoir, which feeds coccolith formation with calcium and presumably the impurities that have been detected in mature coccolith chalk. Besides calcium this compartment contains other elements, including polyphosphates, which enable accumulation of calcium without its precipitation.

“The discovery of this new component in the calcium metabolism of the alga Emiliania huxleyi gives new opportunities to understand the production of coccoliths and the integration of trace elements”, explains Sanja Sviben, first author of this study. The insights emerging from this study may bring the coccolith composition and seawater chemistry into a mechanistic framework and help in understanding why and how calcification will be affected by changing environmental conditions.

Beside the reconstruction of past environmental conditions, it will be possible to develop predictive models of the future of calcification and the corresponding impact on climate. “Our results can be used to clarify how ocean acidification can influence the chalk production and how this process can adapt to future conditions”, describes André Scheffel.

Being able to predict those future changes is important, due to the impact coccolithophores have on the global carbon cycle. They bind million tons of carbon dioxide yearly, removing the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Each chalky coccolith that ends up on the sea-floor removes carbon from the atmosphere-ocean cycle for thousands of years.

The acidification of the oceans due to raising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations poses a threat to biological chalk formation and the consequences of this on our climate are poorly understood.

Contact
Dr. André Scheffel
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology
Tel. 0331/567 8358
scheffel@mpimp-golm.mpg.de

Dr. Ulrike Glaubitz
Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology
Tel. 0331/567 8275
glaubitz@mpimp-golm.mpg.de
http://www.mpimp-golm.mpg.de

Katja Schulze
Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces
Tel. 0331/567 9203
katja.schulze@mpikg.mpg.de
http://www.mpikg.mpg.de

Original publication
Sviben, S., Gal., A., Hood., M., A., Bertinetti, L., Politi, Y., Bennet, M., Krishnamoorthy, P., Schertel, A., Wirth, R., Sorrentino, A., Pereiso, E., Faivre, D., Scheffel, A.
A vacuole-like compartment concentrates a disordered calcium phase in a key coccolithophorid alga.
Nature Communications, 14. April 2016, doi: 10.1038/ncomms11228

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpimp-golm.mpg.de/2064848/pm-kalkalgen

Dipl. Ing. agr. Ursula Ross-Stitt | Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

New design improves performance of flexible wearable electronics

23.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

Individualized fiber components for the world market

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>