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Images: Having Their Phosphorus and Eating It Too

WHOI biologist and microbial oceanographer Sonya Dyhrman. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

WHOI biologist Sonya Dyhrman (left) and MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Elizabeth Orchard lower a sampling net from the research vessel Atlantic Explorer into the waters of the Sargasso Sea, a nutrient-poor region of the North Atlantic. Dyhrman, Orchard, and their colleagues found that Trichodesmium in this region turn on the genes that allow them to acquire phosphorus from phosphonates, a skill few other marine organisms have. (Photo by former WHOI postdoctoral fellow Alena Sevcu)

Species of the single-celled phytoplankton Trichodesmium form colonies with distinctive shapes. Individual colonies, shown here, are visible to the naked eye; where currents and winds gather many colonies together, the aggregation can be seen from orbiting satellites. (Photo by MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Abby Heithoff)

A colony of Trichodesmium erythraeum. All species of Trichodesmium can obtain phosphorus from phosphonates, but so far only T. erythraeum has been found to produce phosphonates. (Photo by MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Abby Heithoff)