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SEM of protist covered with symbiotic bacteria

A Coat of Many Bacteria

Dozens of oval bacteria coat the membrane of this microorganism, known as a protist, collected from the sulfidic, anoxic Cariaco Basin off the coast of Venezuela. This pairing is probably an example of mutualistic symbiosis, a close relationship between two species in which both parties benefit. In this case, the bacteria may detoxify sulfide, allowing the protist to survive in the basin, and the protist may carry the bacteria to the optimal micro-environment in the water column. These organisms were collected by WHOI biologist Ginny Edgcomb and post-doctoral fellow Bill Orsi, who will soon embark on an expedition to study the unusual microbes that live in the Deep Hypersaline Anoxic Basins of the Mediterranean Sea. Follow their adventures on Dive and Discover from Nov. 28-Dec. 9.

(Scanning electron micrograph by William Orsi, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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