Red algae have persisted in hot springs and surrounding rocks for about 1 billion years. Now, a Rutgers-led team will investigate why these single-celled extremists have thrived in harsh environments – research that could benefit environmental cleanups and the production of biofuels and other products.
Rutgers student Julia Van Etten, whose @Couch_Microscopy Instagram page garnered more than 25,000 followers by showcasing microorganisms as art, is now working with NASA on research into how red algae can help explain the origins of life on Earth.
You’d think that losing 25 percent of your genes would be a big problem for survival. But not for red algae, including the seaweed used to wrap sushi. An ancestor of red algae lost about a quarter of its genes roughly one billion years ago, but the algae still became dominant in near-shore coastal areas around the world, according to Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Debashish Bhattacharya, who co-authored a study in the journal Nature Communications.