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You Haptophyte, For Your Right… To Paaartay!

It’s not quite the Beastie Boys, but the University of Washington has made a remarkable breakthrough in the understanding of haptophytes, an ancient group of algae that lived in the world’s oceans millions of years ago.

UW Biology Professor Rose Ann Cattolico and Blake Hovde, then a graduate student in the UW Department of Genome Sciences and now a post doctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, were able to sequence the complete genome of the species Chrysochromulina tobin.

The research team set to find out more about this species of algae, whose growth is so prolific it can affect the weather, and accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all photosynthesis in the world’s oceans. One of their key learnings was that fat content gets high during the day and goes down during the night. Understanding – and being able to control algae fat content is key for to unlocking the potential of algae for important for nutrition, ecology and biofuel production.

“Haptophytes are really important in carbon dioxide management and they form a critical link in the aquatic foodchain,” said Cattolico. “This new genome shows us so much about this group.”

The research was published Sept. 23 in the online, open-access journal PLOS Genetics.

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