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A New Pathway in the Ecosystem of the Ocean

 

Narrator: This is Science Today. Red tides are a natural phenomenon, known as harmful algal blooms, and they have been well-recorded in antiquity. But scientists' understanding of them has been limited. Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography have identified a common, yet previously little-understood, marine microbe called RCA bacteria as a red tide killer.

Franks: One of the things that I think is really exciting about this is that we elucidated a new pathway in the ecosystem in the ocean - this bacteria phytoplankton interaction and we've focused in on something that people didn't really know about and didn't think was important.

Narrator: Biological oceanographer Peter Franks says the discovery relied heavily on new biotechnologies such as genomics and proteomics.

Franks: Just even finding out what this bacterium was requires sequencing and comparing to genetic databases and that sort of thing and that's where we discovered how widespread this organism actually is - that people knew about it before in a genetic sense, they had its code, they just didn't know what it was or what it was doing.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.