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Hanging on to the green stuff.

Hanging on to the green stuff

Certain species of plankton--those tiny one-celled creaturesof the deep--that have a few cilia on their bodies and graze on algae aren't as mindless as they might appear. Researchers at the Woods Hole (Mas.) Oceanographic Institution report in the April 23 NATURE that many plankton called oligotrichs and tintinnids can retain chloroplasts they ingest and use them to their own advantage. Chloroplasts are the chlorophyll storage areas where photosynthesis and starch formation take place in plants.

Diane K. Stoecker, Ann E. Michaels and Linda H. Davisdetermined the number of these planktonic ciliates, taken from Atlantic coastal waters, that retain chloroplasts. In the spring and summer, about 42 percent of the two plankton combined have chloroplasts; in the autumn and winter, at least 10 percent.

Marine biologists have speculated for years that the retainedchloroplasts aren't just ornamental, but functional. Experiments measuring photosynthesis in water containing the plankton support this concept, say the authors. Because chloroplast retention by planktonic ciliates is found in waters around the world, the scientists say the plankton are "important both as producers and consumers' in marine populations, thereby more efficiently providing food for larger animals.
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Title Annotation:chloroplast retention by planktonic ciliates
Publication:Science News
Date:May 2, 1987
Words:193
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