Donia became interested in how algae make chemical defenses because several other marine organisms -- such as sponges and tunicates -- use bacterial symbionts to make toxins. The team found that the bacterial species, which they named Candidatus Endobryopsis kahalalidefaciens, produces about 15 or so different toxins, known as kahalalides. 4, pages 1149–1159. “The implications are big for our understanding of how bacteria, plants and animals form mechanistic dependencies, where biologically active molecules transcend the original producer and end up reaching and benefitting a network of interacting partners.”. A symbiotic relationship is one in which several organisms closely interact.

Vol. The intertwined story of these three characters — the sea slug E. rufescens, marine algae of the genus Bryopsis, and the newly identified bacteria — form a three-way symbiotic relationship. The team found that the bacteria have become so dependent on their algal home that they cannot survive on their own.

One predator that can eat the toxins is the slug E. rufescens. The slug stores them, building up a chemical arsenal that is ten times more concentrated than the toxins in the algae.

Zan and Li share co-first-authorship on the study.

The slug stores them, building up a chemical arsenal that is ten times more concentrated than the toxins in the algae. Delicate yet voracious, the sea slug Elysia rufescens grazes cow-like on bright green tufts of algae, rooting around to find the choicest bits.

The researchers also discovered that the bacteria have permanently sacrificed their independence for a life of security, as they no longer possess the genes required for survival outside the algae. But this inch-long marine mollusk gains not only a tasty meal — it also slurps up the algae’s defensive chemicals, which the slug can then deploy against its own predators. document.write("

“The implications are big for our understanding of how bacteria, plants and animals form mechanistic dependencies, where biologically active molecules transcend the original producer and end up reaching and benefitting a network of interacting partners.”. But this inch-long marine mollusk gains not only a tasty meal — it also slurps up the algae's defensive chemicals, which the slug can then deploy against its own predators.



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