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Images: Growing Marine Plants Need Their Vitamins

WHOI biogeochemists and colleagues found evidence that vitamin B12 plays a vital and previously overlooked role in the ocean food web and Earth's climate. Their research was published in the May 2007 issue of Limnology & Oceanongraphy. From right to left: MIT/WHOI Joint Program graduate students, Erin Bertrand and Abigail Noble, and assistant scientist Mak Saito, aboard the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Scientists from research institutions around the world convened for expeditions in 2005 and 2006 aboard the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer to the Ross Sea near Antarctica, which teems with small plants, known as algae, in spring and summer. The algae have an impact on Earth's climate by using carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and then taking carbon down to the depths when they die and sink. The CORSACS (Controls on Ross Sea Algal Community Structure) project, funded by the National Science Foundation, explored the myriad factors that regulate the Ross Sea ecosystem. (Yuanyuan Feng, University of Delaware )

Scientists use a long pole and scooper to capture samples of algae found under the sea ice in the Ross Sea. (Rob Dunbar, Stanford University)

B12 contains the metal cobalt and is required by many living things. Both cobalt and the vitamin are rare in the oceans, and scientists wondered if they played a role in marine ecosystems. (Mak Saito, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

As well as bountiful plant life, the Ross Sea is also filled with mammoth icebergs. (Rob Dunbar, Stanford University)