Thursday, August 11, 2005

algae love: sex and stress in the algae world

People who spend all of their time researching the sex lives of various types of algae remind me a bit of morticians. Whenever I meet aspiring forensics scientists, what I'm usually taken by is their lack of weirdness. It's almost as if they simply wanted a profession where they could finally get a little bit of peace and quiet.

Working in the dark heart of an algae laboratory at the University of New Brunswick sits Aurora Nedelcu, a scientist who has just uncovered a little known curiosity of the world. Aurora discovered that the two types of algae she studied both seemed to have sex in response to stresses in their environment. Volvox carteri got worked up over oxidative stress or heat stress, while for Chlamydomonas reinhardtii it was nitrogen stress that did it in. Why this is important to us (i.m.o.) is that it uncovers for us an interesting evolutionary strategy of the world. When an organism's survival is threatened in some way, that's when they need to reproduce. For humans, perhaps, when we're facing insecure times that might be when we need someone the most.

source article at newscientist



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