The evolutionary origin of synapses and neurons

Posted on Oct 10, 2017

A new review article Evolutionary origin of synapses and neurons – Bridging the gap by Pawel Burkhardt, Research Fellow at the MBA and Professor Simon Sprecher from the University of Fribourg is online now.

The review highlights the need to take an integrative approach that considers unicellular organisms (the ichthyosporeans, filastereans and choanoflagellates) as well as metazoans, in order to fully understand the evolutionary origin of synapses and neurons.

Find out more about the work of the Burkhardt Group .

Looking into the functional roles of marine fungi

Posted on Oct 10, 2017

Marine fungi © Michael Cunliffe

The functional roles that marine fungi fulfil are poorly understood, resulting in a lack of knowledge of their ecology and biology.

This research, led by Michael Cunliffe, shows that some marine mycoplankton have a saprotrophic functional role in processing algal polysaccharides and may be involved in the trophic transfer of phytoplankton produced POC in marine food webs.

Read the abstract at Science Direct Algal polysaccharide utilisation by saprotrophic planktonic marine fungi

Find out more about the Cunliffe group and marine microbial biogeochemistry

How microbes access dilute nutrients in the open ocean

Posted on Sep 22, 2017

Microbe scale diagram

The most abundant organisms in the ocean are unicellular bacteria. Two species that occur in all oceans are Prochlorococcus marina – a photosynthetic cyanobacterium which produces ~25% of the oxygen on the planet each year – and Pelagibacter ubique – a heterotrophic bacterium that is the most abundant bacterial species in the sea. These tiny (<0.5 μm diameter), ubiquitous, free-living organisms have extremely streamlined genomes. They are also nonmotile. How do they acquire the nutrients that they need for growth if they are unable to swim towards nutrient sources?

Ian Joint (MBA), with Jonathan Zehr (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Joshua Weitz (Georgia Institute of Technology) have now shown that molecular diffusion is so rapid that it supplies daily requirements, even in the extremely oligotrophic oceanic gyres [1]

Bacteria are...

Lee Bay Biobllitz

Posted on Sep 22, 2017

MBA Bioblitz 2017

We are very pleased to announce that our 2017 BioBlitz will be at Lee Bay, near Illfracombe, North Devon on the 22nd - 23rdSeptember.

The event will be run in partnership with North Devon Coast AONB and Coastwise North Devon . Coastal Creatures and the Lee BioBlitz is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Lee Bay is set into a valley with abundant flora and fauna in woodlands, streams, rocky shore and cliffs which serves as an excellent lookout point for marine megafauna. As Lee Bay is tucked into a little nook on the North Devon coast we will be using the village hall as our base which is a 10 minute walk down to one of the most diverse rocky shores in the AONB. More information about Lee Bay can be found here:

MBA Sepia trials 'Ocean Indicator'

Posted on Aug 23, 2017

MBA Sepia

Recently colleagues from the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) were on board MBA Sepia to test a new piece of equipment, the ‘ocean indicator’. MBA Sepia assisted in the testing of the ocean indicator, towing the device at different speeds that it would experience during its maiden voyage. The deployment, recovery and behaviour of the instrument was recorded by SAHFOS and the crew of the MBA Sepia over two days, contributing to its successful launch in August 2017.

The ‘ocean indicator’ is a far smaller version of SAHFOS' Continuous Plankton Recorder, and has been provided to the all-female crew of the yacht undertaking the Exxpedition around the UK . The yacht will be towing the indicator to investigate the amount of microplastics found in the ocean.

Post-Doctorate Research Assistant Dr Clare Ostle said: “ The...

New technology in ecological research to predict how marine life will fare in warmer seas

Posted on Aug 23, 2017

Community on a settlement panel similar to those used in the study

A new paper published in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B

Community responses to seawater warming are conserved across diverse biological groupings and taxonomic resolutions

Scientific Abstract : Temperature variability is a major driver of ecological pattern, with recent changes in average and extreme temperatures having significant impacts on populations, communities and ecosystems. In the marine realm, very few experiments have manipulated temperature in situ , and current understanding of temperature effects on community dynamics is limited. We developed new technology for precise seawater temperature control to examine warming effects on communities of bacteria, microbial eukaryotes (protists) and metazoans. Despite highly contrasting phylogenies, size spectra and diversity levels,...

What is a "sea flea"? Amphipods make the headlines!

Posted on Aug 10, 2017

Hyperiid Amphipod Jack Sewell
A benthic (living on or in the sea bed) amphipod.

Amphipods are small, shrimp-like invertebrates, and members of the sub-phylum Crustacea that includes crabs, lobsters and barnacles.

What is the difference between sea fleas and sea lice?

Sea fleas have been in the news recently. Common names often vary from area to area and what are known as “sea fleas” in Australia are called “sand hoppers” in the UK (e.g. the sand hopper Talitrus saltator see more at )

Sea fleas/sand hoppers are amphipod crustaceans. There are many species, mostly marine but also some that live in freshwater and some that are terrestrial. See our YouTube video for an introduction to amphipods.

We use the term “sea lice” for parasitic copepods, best known for being parasites of salmon (and a problem for salmon farms). However, in other...