Scientists Solve Longstanding Mystery Of Floating Algae Balls

Posted: Aug 28 2018, 2:55pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Solve Longstanding Mystery of Floating Algae Balls
Credit: University of Bristol

Researchers have found that photosynthesis and circadian rhythm are responsible for the floating and sinking of the fuzzy green algae balls.

Spongy green algae balls are found naturally in the lakes of the northern hemisphere, particularly of Japan and Iceland’s. These adorable fuzzy balls, called marimo, are formed when a certain type of algae clump together and carried around by the flow of the water. They rise to the surface during the day and sink back down to the bottom of the lake at night. This unique behavior of the algae has puzzled researchers for decades. However, a new study can explain why these algae balls sink at night and float during the day.

Researchers from the University of Bristol hypothesized that photosynthesis is somehow linked to the unusual change in their behavior. When algae balls photosynthesize, they produce tiny bubbles of oxygen around themselves – possibly allowing them to float during the day.

To test their hypothesis, researchers stopped the process of photosynthesis in the samples of marimo by using a chemical. They found that algae balls could not form bubbles and thereby did not float. Further research revealed that marimo floating is controlled by their biological clock or daily circadian rhythm. When researchers placed algae balls under dim red light for several days and periodically exposed them to bright light to sync their clocks in a fake night and day environment, they found that marimo floated much more rapidly at their dawn than their middle of the day. These results have implications for the conservation of beautiful algae balls which are rapidly declining in their natural habitats.

“Unfortunately, marimo balls are endangered, and currently found in only half the lakes where they were once spotted. This might be caused by changes in light penetration due to pollution. By understanding the responses to environmental cues and how the circadian clock controls floating, we hope to contribute to its conservation and reintroduction in other countries.” Dora Cano-Ramirez, lethe ad author of the study, said.

The green algae balls were first discovered in Dannemora Lake at Sweden in 1753. But they were not widely recognized until a Japanese botanist discovered these algae aggregates in the bay of Lake Akan. Today, marimo algae balls are a protected national treasure but their ecology is still largely unknown.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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