The toxic chemicals, kahalalides, are actually made by bacteria that live inside the algae. Diarey Tianero, Jared N. Balaich, Mohamed S. Donia. Elysia rufescens, named for its reddish hue, lives in warm shallow waters in various locations including Hawaii, where the researchers collected the slugs. "Localized production of defence chemicals by intracellular symbionts of Haliclona sponges," by Ma. “It is so satisfying to now understand the remarkable bacterium and its pathways that synthesize these complex compounds.”. He decided to look at the chemical structures of the toxins and found that their structure suggested they were made by bacteria or fungi. A team has discovered that these chemicals are made by bacteria living inside the algae, highlighting a surprising three-way dependence among sea slugs, algae and bacteria. Donia became interested in how algae make chemical defenses because several other marine organisms — such as sponges and tunicates — use bacterial symbionts to make toxins. var sc_project=9920653; "); “The implications are big for our understanding of how bacteria, plants and animals form mechanistic dependencies, where biologically active molecules transcend the original producer and end up reaching and benefitting a network of interacting partners.”. “Our collaboration, building on the work of colleagues and under the leadership of Mohamed, has finally solved the long-standing mystery of the true producer of the kahalalide compounds,” Hill said. How Do Mexican Cavefish Escape Predators? Instead, about a fifth of the bacteria’s genome is directed toward pumping out toxic molecules that stop predators from eating the bacterium’s home. A symbiotic relationship is one in which several organisms closely interact. Ma. In this example, the slug gets food and defensive chemicals, the algae get chemicals, and the bacteria get a home and free meals for life in the form of nutrients from their algae host. Hill and his then-graduate student Jeanette Davis assisted Donia and Princeton postdoctoral researchers Jindong Zan, Zhiyuan Li and Maria Diarey Tianero in collecting the algae and slugs in Hawaii. Hill and his then-graduate student Jeanette Davis assisted Donia and Princeton postdoctoral researchers Jindong Zan, Zhiyuan Li and Maria Diarey Tianero in collecting the algae and slugs in Hawaii. “It’s a complicated system and a very unique relationship among these three organisms,” said Mohamed Donia, assistant professor of ” target=”_blank”>molecular biology at Princeton University and senior author on the study. Elysia belongs to a family of "solar-powered slugs," so named because they sequester, along with the defensive chemicals, the algae's energy-making photosynthetic machinery, making them some of the few animals in the world that create their own nutrients from sunlight. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190627164743.htm (accessed November 4, 2020). var scJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? One of the questions the team asked was whether the slug acquires not just the chemicals but also the factory — the bacteria — itself. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader: Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks: Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments.