Microbiology

Fingers or Toes?

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Science  17 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5938, pp. 247
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_247d

Countless hours have been spent on scrutinizing the morphological subtleties of planktonic organisms, particularly in trying to match shapes to species and to reconcile both with the huge genetic diversity; sometimes, the disconnect can be profoundly misleading. By tracking individuals in culture-well plates, Pizay et al. noticed that dinoflagellates changed shape in striking ways. Ceratium ranipes grew rigid chloroplast-filled fingers by day and became relatively lethargic, whereas at night, they absorbed the appendages and became more active. Why? One possibility is that the daytime appendages allow the organisms to maximize photosynthesis at the surface, and nighttime absorption allows them to sink a little, swim a little faster, and escape predator pressure.

Protist 160, 10.1016/j.protis.2009.04.003 (2009).

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