The Web of Life (22-3-2) Marine Microbe Synchrony

 Marine Microbe Synchrony

We usually think of the ocean as a big stew, but now we see a coordination that could involve ‘talking’ between microbes, timing with the day, and responding to the environment. ~ American microbiologist Elizabeth Ottesen

Marine microbes bifurcate into phytoplankton that photosynthesize to feed themselves and heterotrophs that live off others. As the open ocean is a nutritional desert, the heterotrophs are hard-pressed.

Cyanobacteria rise to the surface during the day to collect sunlight and sink at night in respite. They naturally time their gene expression cycles to match their diurnal activity.

Heterotrophic bacterioplankton in the community do likewise. This concurrent choreography helps the heterotrophs get enough to eat.

Such synchrony is universal. Marine microbe communities throughout the world display strikingly similar rhythms in their metabolic patterns.

Extremely different ecosystems exhibit very similar diel cycles, driven largely by sunlight and interspecies microbial interactions. ~ American marine microbiologist Frank Aylward