Dynamic sinking behaviour in marine phytoplankton: rapid changes in buoyancy may aid in nutrient uptake

Seconds to change its location in the water table and avoid detection. This organism never ceases to amaze me at what it is capable of doing and should not be underestimated by our water treatment experts. Click here to read the full study or an excerpt below.


The results show that in both field samples and laboratory cultures, some large species of centric diatoms are capable of a novel behaviour, whereby cells undergo bursts of rapid sinking that alternate with near-zero sinking rates on the timescales of seconds. We also demonstrate that this behaviour is under direct metabolic control of the cell. We discuss these results in the context of implications for nutrient flux to the cell surface. While nutrient flux in large diatoms increases during fast sinking, current mass transport models cannot incorporate the unsteady sinking behaviour observed in this study. However, large diatoms appear capable of benefiting from the enhanced nutrient flux to their surface during rapid sinking even during brief intervening periods of near-zero sinking rates.


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