Nitrogen Fixation in Marine Shipworms

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Science  14 Feb 1975:
Vol. 187, Issue 4176, pp. 551-552
DOI: 10.1126/science.187.4176.551


Nitrogen fixation is associated with four shipworl species. A bacterium capable of fixing nitrogen under anaerobic conditions and of liquefying cellulose in culture has been isolated from the gut of one species. High fixation rates (up to 1.5 micrograms of nitrogen per milligram dry weight per hour), which resulted in a doubling of cellular nitrogen in as little as 1.4 days, was associated with Teredora malleolus from the Sargasso Sea. Three species from coastal waters were assayed, and of these juveniles showed the highest fixation rates. Nitrogen fixation activity appeared to be inversely related to the ability of shipworms to obtain combined-nitrogen compounds in their diet. It could be a significant source of nitrogen for shipwornms and perhaps other oceanic organisms that ingest terrestrial plant material.