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electron micrograph of bacteria living inside a marine ciliate

Mutual Aid

Electron micrograph shows different kinds of bacteria (dark ovals and smaller, lighter shapes) living inside compartments within a ciliated protist. Many marine protists that live in harsh habitats such as hypersaline, anoxic pools have symbiotic relationships with bacteria that provide nutrients or detoxify deadly compounds. The protists, in turn, may help the bacteria by shielding them from predators or by moving them to prime locations. This kind of symbiosis, in which both partners benefit, is called mutualism. WHOI biologist Ginny Edgcomb has studied protist-bacterial interactions from extreme environments around the world, including in the Mediterranean Sea. (Photomicrograph by Virginia Edgcomb, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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