Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cloning the smell of the seaside

02.02.2007
Scientists from the University of East Anglia have discovered exactly what makes the seaside smell like the seaside – and bottled it!

The age-old mystery was unlocked thanks to some novel bacteria plucked from the North Norfolk coast.

Prof Andrew Johnston and his team at UEA isolated this microbe from the mud at Stiffkey saltmarsh to identify and extract the single gene responsible for the emission of the strong-smelling gas, dimethyl sulphide (DMS).

“On bracing childhood visits to the seaside we were always told to ‘breathe in that ozone, it’s good for you’,” said Prof Johnston.

... more about:
»DMS »Johnston »seaside

“But we were misled, twice over. Firstly because that distinctive smell is not ozone, it is dimethyl sulphide. And secondly, because inhaling it is not necessarily good for you.”

DMS is a little known but important gas. Across the world’s oceans, seas and coasts, tens of millions of tonnes of it are released by microbes that live near plankton and marine plants, including seaweeds and some salt-marsh plants. The gas plays an important role in the formation of cloud cover over the oceans, with major effects on climate. Indeed, the phenomenon was used by James Lovelock as a plank to underpin his ‘Gaia hypothesis’.

DMS is also a remarkably effective food marker for ocean-going birds such as shearwaters and petrels. It acts as a homing scent – like Brussels sprouts at the Christmas dinner table! - and the birds sniff out their plankton food in the lonely oceans at astonishingly low concentrations.

Scientists have known about DMS for many years but the genes responsible for its production have never before been identified. The new findings will be published in the journal Science on Friday February 2.

“By isolating a single gene from a bacterium collected from the mud of Stiffkey marshes, we deduced that the mechanisms involved in DMS production differ markedly from those that had been predicted,” said Prof Johnston. “And we discovered that other, wholly unexpected bacteria could also make that seaside smell.”

The discovery adds to the diverse list of Stiffkey’s claims to fame. The small coastal village is renowned for its ‘Stewkey Blue’ cockles and was also the home of Henry Williamson, author of ‘Tarka the Otter’.

A more controversial figure from Siffkey’s past was its rector, Rev Harold Davidson, who was defrocked in 1932 after allegedly ‘cavorting with’ London prostitutes. He later joined a circus and died after being mauled to death by a lion in Skegness. The UEA scientists are hoping to avoid such a fate, said Prof Johnston!

Press Office | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uea.ac.uk

Further reports about: DMS Johnston seaside

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>