Selective collection of iron-rich dust particles by natural Trichodesmium colonies.


The Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, Edmond J. Safra Campus, Givat Ram, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel. [Email]


Dust is an important iron (Fe) source to the ocean, but its utilization by phytoplankton is constrained by rapid sinking and slow dissolution dust-bound iron (dust-Fe). Colonies of the globally important cyanobacterium, Trichodesmium, overcome these constraints by efficient dust capturing and active dust-Fe dissolution. In this study we examined the ability of Trichodesmium colonies to maximize their Fe supply from dust by selectively collecting Fe-rich particles. Testing for selectivity in particle collection, we supplied ~600 individual colonies, collected on multiple days from the Gulf of Aqaba, with natural dust and silica minerals that were either cleaned of or coated with Fe. Using a stereoscope, we counted the number of particles retained by each colony shortly after addition and following 24 h incubation with particles, and documented translocation of particles to the colony core. We observed a strong preference for Fe-rich particles over Fe-free particles in all tested parameters. Moreover, some colonies discarded the Fe-free particles they initially collected. The preferred collection of Fe-rich particles and disposal of Fe-free particles suggest that Trichodesmium can sense Fe and selectively choose Fe-rich dust particles. This ability assists Trichodesmium obtain Fe from dust and facilitate its growth and subsequent contribution to nutrient cycling and productivity in the ocean.

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