Nav: Home

Sentinels Of The Sea

June 03, 1998


Luminous Bugs Make Ideal Watchdogs In Contaminated Waters

IT IS easy to dump waste in deep-ocean trenches-far harder to check that it hasn't seeped from its containers into the sea. Now, though, colonies of glowing bacteria offer hope. When they sense pollution in the water around them, they get dimmer.

"Our idea is that it's like a deep-sea canary," says William Jones, head of the team developing the biosensor at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. "If light starts to drop, it would trigger neighbouring samplers into action."

Working with colleagues at the institute and at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, Jones has screened 10 species of luminous bacteria from fish and marine mammals. One of the most promising is Photobacterium phosphoreum HE-1a, isolated from the deep-sea fish Paratrachichthys prosthemius. In a laboratory pressure chamber, the bacteria survived pressures of up to 31 megapascals-more than 300 times atmospheric pressure-equivalent to a depth of around 3000 metres.

The researchers found that P. phosphoreum HE-1a glowed up to 50 per cent less brightly when exposed to a variety of potential pollutants. These included heavy metals such as zinc, copper and cobalt, as well as chemical pollutants, including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and polyaromatic hydrocarbons typically found in oily wastes.

"HE-1a seemed to be the most robust and to respond to almost everything," says Jones. It would not distinguish one pollutant from the other, however. Its task would be simply to issue an "alarm call" that would trigger more sophisticated sensors stationed nearby.

Author: Andy Coghlan

New Scientist Issue 6th June 1998, page 21

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE OF THIS STORY
-end-


New Scientist

Related Fish Articles:

Robo-turtles in fish farms reduce fish stress
Robotic turtles used for salmon farm surveillance could help prevent fish escapes.
Heatwaves risky for fish
A world-first study using sophisticated genetic analysis techniques have found that some fish are better than others at coping with heatwaves.
A new use for museum fish specimens
This paper suggests using museum specimens to estimate the length-weight relationships of fish that are hard to find alive in their natural environment.
Reef fish caring for their young are taken advantage of by other fish
Among birds, the practice of laying eggs in other birds' nests is surprisingly common.
How to keep fish in the sea and on the plate
Temporary bans on fishing can be better than permanent ones as a way of allowing fish stocks in an area to recover, while still providing enough to eat, a research team has found.
Anemones are friends to fish
Any port in a storm, any anemone for a small fish trying to avoid being a predator's dinner.
Fish farmers of the Caribbean
There are only so many fish in the sea. And our appetite for seafood has already stressed many wild fisheries to the breaking point.
When a fish becomes fluid
Zebrafish aren't just surrounded by liquid, but turn liquid -- in part -- during their development.
Swapping bacteria may help 'Nemo' fish cohabitate with fish-killing anemones
The fish killer and the fish live in harmony: But how the clownfish thrive in the poisonous tentacles of the anemone remains a mystery.
Fish can detox too -- but not so well, when it comes to mercury
By examining the tissues at a subcellular level, the researchers discovered yelloweye rockfish were able to immobilize several potentially toxic elements within their liver tissues (cadmium, lead, and arsenic) thus preventing them from interacting with sensitive parts of the cell.
More Fish News and Fish Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.