Scientists discover new kind of blue-green algae with carbonates in their cells

Apr 30, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) -- Researchers studying organisms in Mexico's Lake Alchichica have discovered a new species of cyanobacterium that unlike any other ever found, has bony, intracellular carbonates. Up till now, specimens with such mineral deposits in their systems have, as the team explains in their paper published in the journal Science, had them on the outsides of their cells.

Cyanobacterium, known more widely as blue-green , are a major part of planet Earth's many varied geochemical cycles. They take in and give back oxygen and are believed to have been one of the driving forces that led to the evolution of other types of organisms that survive by breathing the oxygen they provide. Up till now, many types of have been identified, both in the present and in the historical record, that have carbonate material on the outer edges of their cells that researchers believe is the result of changes that caused the to precipitate minerals out of their cells leading to calcified crystals.

This new species however, appears to be working in a wholly different way. Instead of the carbonate material building up as the cyanobacterium purge minerals from their cells, they appear to be using the bony material as a means of allowing them to anchor themselves to rocks on the bottom of the lake.

Because the mineral material - made up of calcium, magnesium, barium, carbonate and strontium (similar to that found in coral) found inside the tiny organisms is not the same percentagewise as minerals in its local environment, the researchers believe the newfound species, Candidatus Gloeomargarita lithophora, is somehow able to manipulate the minerals inside its cells to produce the optimal bonelike material that allows the cyanobacterium to sit on rocks and other structures at the bottom of the lake, thus, providing them with a unique niche in which to survive.

Also, because it is not yet known whether the bony material inside the cells of the new species of cyanobacterium disperses when they die, researchers are considering the possibility that their new find may have played a role in early Earth history that until now, has never been identified. If the carbonates dissolve upon death, Candidatus Gloeomargarita lithophora would not have left any evidence of its existence behind.

The next step in the research will be of course to find out if the mineral structures inside their do disperse when they die, and then to discern if they may help fill in some of the many gaps that still exist in the ancient history of our planet.

Explore further: Reading a biological clock in the dark

More information: Science 27 April 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6080 pp. 459-462 DOI: 10.1126/science.1216171

Related Stories

Mars' missing carbon dioxide may be buried

Mar 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Rocks on Mars dug from far underground by crater-blasting impacts are providing glimpses of one possible way Mars' atmosphere has become much less dense than it used to be.

Exposed rocks point to water on ancient Mars

Oct 14, 2010

A new discovery of hydrothermally altered carbonate-bearing rocks on Mars points toward habitable environments deep in the martian crust, a Planetary Science Institute researcher said.

Plants may have a single ancestor

Feb 17, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international group of scientists has analyzed the DNA of primitive microscopic algae, and their findings suggest that all plants on Earth may have had a single ancestor.

NASA research offers new prospect of water on Mars

Jul 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA scientists are seeing new evidence that suggests traces of water on Mars are under a thin varnish of iron oxide, or rust, similar to conditions found on desert rocks in California's Mojave ...

Recommended for you

Reading a biological clock in the dark

7 hours ago

Our species' waking and sleeping cycles – shaped in millions of years of evolution – have been turned upside down within a single century with the advent of electric lighting and airplanes. As a result, ...

Scientists see how plants optimize their repair

Oct 20, 2014

Researchers led by a Washington State University biologist have found the optimal mechanism by which plants heal the botanical equivalent of a bad sunburn. Their work, published in the Proceedings of the Na ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2012
Duh! If they left nothing behind; how do you now know they even existed? If you have fossil evidence, then they must not have completely dissolved upon death... eh?
Shoe
5 / 5 (2) May 01, 2012
Duh! If they left nothing behind; how do you now know they even existed?


They found them growing in a lake, they're not talking about identifying it from fossil evidence. What they're now querying is how long they've been around, something which could be very difficult to figure out if the minerals dissolve after cell death.
slayerwulfe
not rated yet May 01, 2012
if brevity is the soul of wit then Shoe has a Sole.