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Desert vs. Aquatic Algae

April 12, 2018

Stephanie M. McPherson writes about researchers at the University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory who have described a new genetic model to study why some algal species survive extreme drought, while others desiccate and die? In a paper published in Journal of Cell Science, major reproductive differences between the two groups were also detailed.

Out of a group of five closely related species of green algae called Scenedesmaceae, three that have adapted to life in desert crust can withstand multiple rounds of desiccation, whereas their two aquatic cousins perish after drying out once.

Staying alive in the desert is no simple matter for green algae whose evolutionary ancestors lived in the ocean. Understanding this difference can provide important information on requirements for drought tolerance that it may be possible to apply to larger plants as the climate changes.

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Video clip: Enallax costatus undergoing division in a microfluidic chamber, imaged using a Nikon inverted Ti-U microscope and a Nikon Qi2 Cmos camera. Connected sheets of daughter cells are released from within each mother cell wall in these aquatic algae.

Credit: ZG Cardon and M Bezanilla, MBL Woods Hole

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