Science & Technology

A small microscopic hunter can become a climate change crystal ball. – Science Inquirer

Durham, NC — It’s hard to know what climate change means for the Earth’s interconnected and interdependent networks of life. But one of Duke University’s team of researchers says that just a few ounces of microbial soup could give a glimpse into the future.

Darwin’s Tree of Life (think).

Every drop of pond water and a teaspoon of soil is filled with tens of thousands of small unicellular organisms called protists. They are so abundant that they are estimated to weigh twice the combined weight of all animals on Earth.

Over 200,000 known protists, neither animals, plants nor fungi, are often overlooked. However, he said rising temperatures could play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Jean-Philippe Gibert, Associate Professor of Biology at Duke University.

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That’s because protists like to eat. They devour bacteria and release carbon dioxide into the air when they breathe, just as they do when they breathe. However, bacteria make up more of the Earth’s biomass than any living organism other than plants, making it one of the largest natural sources of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes global warming.

so study Released on October 19th Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences, Gibert, Postdoctoral Fellow Dan Wieczynski And colleagues tested the effects of warming on bacterial-eating protists by creating a mini-ecosystem. Each glass flask contains 10 different protists that you can eat, compete with, and breed.

The flask was kept at five temperatures in the range of 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Two weeks later, the researchers looked at which species survived at each temperature and measured the amount of CO2 released during respiration.

“For me, the question was simple in nature,” Gibert said. “Is there anything to measure about living things today? It may be possible to predict the reaction of living things to rising temperatures tomorrow.”

The answer was yes. Researchers were surprised to discover that various reactions to temperature can be predicted from just a few simple measurements of their size, shape, and cell content. And together, these factors in turn affected the respiratory rate of the entire community.

They also found that by measuring cell size, shape, etc. and plugging them into mathematical models, we can get very close to how things are done in a real mini-ecosystem. bottom.

“We can actually use what we know about the relationship between traits and temperature response at the species level and scale it up to the level of the entire ecosystem,” Wieczynski said. rice field.

This work is important because it sheds light on “how climate change changes microbial communities and how this feeds back to influence the pace of climate change,” Wieczynski said.

Image Credit: Dan Wieczynski

A small microscopic hunter can become a climate change crystal ball. – Science Inquirer A small microscopic hunter can become a climate change crystal ball. – Science Inquirer

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