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Algae capture, store, and release nitrogen to feed reef-building coral

Symbiotic algae that live within reef-forming corals scoop up available nitrogen, store the excess in the form or uric acid crystals, and slowly feed it to the coral as needed, according to a study in mBio this week. Scientists have known for years that these symbiotic microorganisms serve up nitrogen to their coral hosts, but this new study sheds light on the dynamics of the process and reveals that the algae have the ability to store excess nitrogen, a capability that could help corals cope with the ups and downs of nitrogen concentrations in the environment.
"It was a great surprise to find the nitrogen-rich crystals inside the algae," writes corresponding author Anders Meibom of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, in an email interview. But, he writes, "it all makes perfect sense now. The algae suck up the ammonium and nitrate like a sponge when the concentrations of these molecules increases, then stores this nitrogen as uric acid crystals for later use."
Click on the source link to read more on mBiosphere...

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