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"Vitamin Sea" -- The Discovery Files


The Discovery Files
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The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 405-875-0058 on any telephone.

Once believed to be manufactured only by marine bacteria, a University of Washington research team has shown that a whole different class of organism can supply vitamin B-12 to the ocean.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: ocean surf) Vitamin waters.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

To make sure we get the vitamins we need, sometimes popping a gummy will do the trick. Not so simple for undersea creatures, who must find their nutrients in nature.

All marine animals, some marine bacteria and some tiny marine algae need vitamin B-12. Prevailing wisdom was that it was manufactured by marine bacteria. Now, researchers at the University of Washington have found that the marine archaea--a whole different class of single-celled organism, separate from bacteria and all other living things--can make this essential nutrient--enough for itself, with some to spare--which it supplies to the environment, for use by other folks.

Significance, it turns out that only certain bacteria can make their own B vitamins, so B-12's presence--or lack of presence in an area--can be a controlling factor in what microbial communities can be supported where.

The research team hopes to learn which microbes are producing B-12 vitamins at what locations, to better understand how the base of the marine food web works, how it might alter in a changing environment, how oceans might help regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide and where marine animals might go to get a well-balanced diet--in the "vitamin sea."

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.

 
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