Cryptophyte Algae: Photosynthesis Super Power

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Photo by Carol Duff

This Type of Algae Absorbs More Light for Photosynthesis Than Other Plants

by Viviane Callier/Smithsonian.com

About 2.5 billion years ago, a pigment called chlorophyll appeared in single-celled organisms, allowing them to capture energy in the form of light and convert it into sugars. This biochemical trick, called photosynthesis, transformed the biosphere. Photosynthesis later allowed plants to thrive all over the globe, and it is the basis for all food that heterotrophs—organisms that don’t produce their own food—like ourselves consume to survive.

Although the chlorophyll pigment captures short (blue) and long (red) wavelengths very well, it does not absorb the middle wavelengths of visible light as effectively. “This creates lots of untapped potential for light capture,” says Jeff Dudycha, an evolutionary biologist at the University of South Carolina. (Infrared light doesn’t have enough energy to be useful for photosynthesis, while ultraviolet light can be damaging to plants.)

But an obscure and ecologically successful group of algae, known as cryptophytes, have evolved pigments that capture light where chlorophyll cannot, Dudycha and colleagues report in a series of recent papers. The extra energy absorption from more wavelengths of light has allowed these algae to thrive in a variety of diverse environments, from oceans to streams to ponds to mud puddles.

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

Carol’s Archives 2009-2013
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