Episode Summary

A marine protist predator traps prey microbes in an attractive bubble of mucus, eats what it wants, and lets the rest sink, possibly sequestering significant amounts of carbon!

Microbe of the episode:

Bat associated cyclovirus 1

News Item

Jesse's takeaways

The oceans have a lot of unique, unexplored life in them. This is true on a macro level but even more on a microscopic level, with many different kinds of microbes of various groups with fascinating life strategies. And despite being microscopic, with enough of them around, they can affect the whole planet's climate in significant ways.

In this study, one protist species gets most of its nutrients from photosynthesis, but what it can't get from the sun, it takes from prey microbes by force. To catch its prey, it creates an intricate bubble of mucus called a mucosphere, and waits for other microbes to swim into it, thinking it is food, and get stuck. Then the predator chooses the prey cell it wants and abandons the rest, letting them sink to the ocean floor and locking away the carbon they contain in the process.

Journal Paper

Larsson ME, Bramucci AR, Collins S, Hallegraeff G, Kahlke T, Raina J-B, Seymour JR, Doblin MA. 2022. Mucospheres produced by a mixotrophic protist impact ocean carbon cycling. Nat Commun 13:1301


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Mucosphere with captured prey. Larsson et al. 2022