For risky research with great potential, dive deep
Multimillion-dollar experiment generates tools to study marine microorganisms.
Nature Index 360°
Protists give coral colonies their colour.
Take a breath, and thank the oceans for it. Then breathe out, and thank the oceans again. This is not the next big meditation fad. It is recognition of the deep blue’s vital role in sustaining life.
But the work of marine protists doesn’t end there. Having captured the CO2, protists then become a primary source of carbon in the food chain. Many protists also produce volatile compounds known as dimethyl sulfides, which help form clouds. And one group ensures that coral colonies retain their healthy appearance.
This is only what is known so far about these pervasive floaters. There is, no doubt, much yet to discover about their ecological contribution. But, how?
Human knowledge of basic biology has been gleaned mostly from some hundred organisms that are easy to genetically manipulate. But such bench favourites as the house mouse, the fruit fly and the zebrafish are inadequate for understanding the diverse workings of the millions of species that comprise life on Earth. And they are especially poor analogues for ocean-dwelling protists.