Stony Brook University Professor Leads Team that Publishes On First Genome of a Harmful Algal Blooms Species
Genome Sequence Reveals Factors Behind the Spread of “Brown Tides” in Coastal Waters
STONY BROOK, N.Y., February 22, 2011—Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are caused by single-celled plants, or phytoplankton, in coastal waters and have a negative impact on coastal ecosystems worldwide, costing the U.S. economy alone hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Aureococcus cells (credit Christopher Gobler, Stony Brook University)
The impact of harmful algal blooms have intensified in recent decades and most research has focused on chemical nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus as causative agents of these blooms. A team of 33 researchers led by Christopher J. Gobler, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, have sequenced and annotated the first complete genome of a HAB species: Aureococcus anophagefferens. The article, entitled, “Niche of harmful alga Aureococcus anophagefferens revealed through ecogenomics,” will be published online in the February 21 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Harmful algal blooms are not a new phenomenon, although many people may know them by other names such as red tides or brown tides,” says Dr. Gobler. “These events can harm humans by causing poisoning of shellfish and can damage marine ecosystems by killing fish and other marine life.”
And the problem is worsening. “The distribution, frequency and intensity of these events have increased across the globe and scientists have been struggling to determine why this is happening,” notes Gobler.
Marine phytoplankton is so tiny—50 of them side by side span only the width of a single hair—that they may seem harmless. But when billions of Aureococcus anophagefferens, or ”brown tide,” cells come together, they outcompete other marine phytoplankton in the area, damaging the food chains in marine ecosystems as well as economically …