Physics Spotlight  
Fluorescence microscopy reveals the surface of a single synthetic particle colonized by wild marine microorganisms (green), which are fluorescently labeled with a double-stranded DNA stain.

Image courtesy of the researchers.Fluorescence microscopy reveals the surface of a single synthetic particle colonized by wild marine microorganisms (green), which are fluorescently labeled with a double-stranded DNA stain.
Image courtesy of the researchers.

Microscale marine interactions may shape critical carbon cycles

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
June 30, 2016

In 1930, the deep-sea explorer William Beebe became the first to observe “marine snow,” an ever-present undersea shower of flocculent organic particles composed of dead phytoplankton, zooplankton fecal pellets, and other nutrient-rich detritus. Globally, marine organic particles transport billions of tons of carbon each year from the surface to the deep ocean. The “valves” controlling this carbon flux are none other than microscopic collectives of marine microorganisms, which assemble on and collectively degrade sinking organic particles. However, how marine microorganisms self-assemble into communities on particles, and how these dynamics shape particle degradation, remains unclear.
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