In a surprising discovery, scientists have found that an ancient marine bacteria changes from a lonely free-floating lifestyle to a sedentary communal life style, when it senses an environment rich on red light.
The bacteria, called Acaryochloris marina, has a special type of pigment – chlorophyll d – that permits these organisms to absorb light just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum, an area that plants can’t use.
Chlorophyll is the molecule responsible for capturing sunlight, so it can be transformed into food, through the process of photosynthesis.
The team of scientists have been researching what triggers the production of different types of chlorophyll in different organisms.
“The goal of our experiment was to investigate if the synthesis of different types of chlorophyll depended on the availability of different types of light. To our surprise, we found that this not the case in A. marina, and that red light doesn’t affect which pigment they use, but instead triggers the expression of genes that are related to the formation of bacterial communities called biofilms,” said Dr Miguel Hernandez, a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, at the University of Sydney.
This study was published recently in the journal Environmental Microbiology. This work is a collaboration between Washington State University and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis at the University of Sydney.