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Ladywriter

Solar-powered Salamander?

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this thing grabbed my attention today its so kool

Posted August 16, 2010 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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A colleague sent over this article detailing a mind-blowing nexus of my energy and wildlife work---the discovery of a fairly common salamander species that is literally powered by the sun, at least early on. New research finds that spotted salamander embryos and hatchlings somehow have little bits of algae inside their cells to create energy using photosynthesis. It is the first time this has been observed in any animal with vertebrae. More importantly, its yet another example of why keeping critters on this planet is so important---we clearly still have a lot to learn from the animal kingdom. Who knows if the humble salamander harbors secrets that will help fix our energy mess...

The reason this discovery is surprising is because all vertebrates have what's known as an adaptive immune system, which naturally destroys any foreign biological material found inside the cells. How the algae in the salamander's cells bypass this defense is a mystery.

Even more interesting, Kerney also discovered that algae is present in the oviducts of adult female spotted salamanders, where the embryos form in their sacs. This means that it's possible symbiotic algae are passed from mother to offspring during reproduction.

"I wonder if algae could be getting into the germ [sex] cells," commented David Wake, from the University of California, Berkeley, who watched Kerney's presentation. "That would really challenge the dogma [of vertebrate cells disposing of foreign biological material]. But why not?"

Although this is the first time such a close co-existence with a photosynthetic organism has been found in a vertebrate, the discovery leaves open the question about if other animals might harbor similar traits.

"I think that if people start looking, we may see many more examples," said developmental biologist Daniel Buchholz.

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                                               Look at the flowers

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:haunt:

I just remembered a childhood memory where I tried to save just 1 salamander from becoming fish bait... sadly to say I got in trouble for trying to remove it from it's natural habitat... as if killing it with a hook to the head was natural... yet that was allowed.


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Interesting... so if the salamanders can pass on the algae along with their own dna in conception, then maybe the algae has been evolving along with the salamanders and its a new kind of algae that can live in creatures and supply us with energy?.... midichlorians? ;) Maybe those salamanders can use the force.. :P


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