By closely examining the stew of organic carbon compounds dissolved in the ocean, scientists are beginning to reveal previously unknown relationships between specific marine microbes, forged by the materials they produce and consume. Autotrophic microbes convert carbon dioxide into organic carbon that heterotrophic microbes rely on for their survival. At one extreme (left), all autotrophs may produce a variety of compounds that a variety of heterotrophs consume. At the other extreme (right), specific autotrophs may produce specific compounds that specific heterotrophs consume. And there are many potential scenarios in between. These microscopic interactions are important cogs that mediate ocean food webs and influence the chemistry of our entire planet. (Illustration by Amy Caracappa-Qubeck, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
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