Microscopic ocean predator with a taste for carbon capture

Date: March 14, 2022

Source: Phys.org

A single-celled marine microbe capable of photosynthesis and hunting and eating prey may be a secret weapon in the battle against climate change.

Scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have discovered a new species that has the potential to sequester carbon naturally, even as oceans warm and become more acidic.

The microbe, abundant around the world, photosynthesises and releases a carbon-rich exopolymer that attracts and immobilizes other microbes. It then eats some of the entrapped prey before abandoning its exopolymer “mucosphere”. Having trapped other microbes, the exopolymer is made heavier and sinks, forming part of the ocean’s natural biological carbon pump.

“This is an entirely new species, never before described in this amount of detail. The implication is that there’s potentially more carbon sinking in the ocean than we currently think, and that there is perhaps greater potential for the ocean to capture more carbon naturally through this process, in places that weren’t thought to be potential carbon sequestration locations.”

Professor Martina Doblin, senior author of the study

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