An ancient marine phytoplankton known to be almost 3 billion years old has been shown to lean on its bacterial friends to survive in some of the most barren, nutrients-deficient waters known to humans.
A team of researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences thinks that Synechococcus can survive hardship due to what are called “heterotrophic bacteria.”
The team found that both organisms undergo changes to benefit the other and display a tendency towards “mutualism,” enabling them to survive barren areas.
According to the study’s co-first author Shailesh Nair, a postdoctoral scholar at QIBEBT:
“Our findings suggest that the availability of external nutrient sources disrupts the established mutualism, leading to the collapse of Synechococcus health. However, once the external nutrients were exhausted, over the next 450 days, Synechococcus and heterotrophic bacteria gradually re-established their metabolic mutualism under long-term coexistence that revived Synechococcus health.”
While the study’s corresponding author Prof. Zhang Yongyu from QIBEBT stated:
“This study was carried out to understand how changes in environmental factors, such as the availability of external nutrients, will influence the mutualistic relationship between the Synechococcus and heterotrophic bacterial community… During the process, bacterial community structure and functions underwent tremendous adjustments to achieve the driving effect, and the bacteria’s cogeneration of nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B12 sustained Synechococcus’s prolonged healthy growth.”
You can find the original study here.