Nav: Home

Florida State-led team offers new rules for algae species classification

September 14, 2020

FSU Assistant Professor of Biological Science Sophie McCoy and her team are proposing formal definitions for algae species and subcategories for the research community to consider: They are recommending algae be classified first by DNA and then by other traits.

The work, which includes collaborations with Stacy Krueger-Hadfield, assistant professor of biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Nova Mieszkowska, a research fellow at the Marine Biological Association in the United Kingdom, was published this week in the Journal of Phycology .

"Algal species should evolve separately from other lineages, so that's DNA-based, but we should also take into account differences in their ecology, such as what they look like or their role in the environment," McCoy said.

The article was published as a perspective rather than offering definitive answers, and the team hopes the larger scientific community will comment on it and start an important conversation.

Algae matter more than most people realize because the organisms make about half of the oxygen in the world, McCoy said. Humanity depends on algae, as does the entire food web of the ocean.

Scientists have established ways to define animal species, such as determining an organism's ability to produce viable offspring that can subsequently reproduce. For instance, a horse and a donkey can create a mule, but a mule cannot reproduce. That helps classify horses and donkeys as separate species. But that type of categorization doesn't work well for algae because it has unique and complex life stages and very often interbreeds with other algal species.

"Rather than having a 'species tree,' like a family tree, algae have more of a web," McCoy said.

That intricacy has made it difficult to formalize categories to classify algae species. Some scientists might classify offspring of two algal species as a distinct new species while others would not. Or some might classify algae species by discrete DNA while others classify by physical characteristics.

"We aren't all using the same rules, so are we actually looking at different breeds or populations and then artificially calling them species?" McCoy said. "Depending on how we apply these rules, the number of species could go way up or way down."

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The IUCN red list helps scientists evaluate a species' extinction risk. So, how a species is defined changes the perception of biodiversity and conservation, she said.

Beyond conservation, catastrophes -- from algal blooms in waterways to the destruction of coral reefs -- could be mitigated by discussing and clarifying algal species classification. McCoy said some of the mysteries surrounding this type of growth are likely related to a lack of uniform identification.

"If we are mistakenly separating or grouping species, we're just not going to understand how different types of algae are responding to pollution or climate change," she said.

This philosophical change in what it means to be a species is a starting point for McCoy and the team. In addition to starting a conversation, she plans to conduct research that builds on the concept over the next year.
-end-


Florida State University

Related Dna Articles:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.
Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.
Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.
Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.
Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.
Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.
Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.
DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.
A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.
From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.
More DNA News and DNA 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: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.