Even in the Oceans, Living Things Need Their Vitamins

By Lippsett, Lonny | Oceanus, July 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Even in the Oceans, Living Things Need Their Vitamins

Lippsett, Lonny, Oceanus

Your mother was right: You need your vitamins. And that turns out to be true for life in the oceans, too.

[B.sub.12]--an essential vitamin for land-dwelling animals, including humans--also plays a vital and previously overlooked role in determining how microscopic plants will bloom in the sea, according to a new study led by biogeochemists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

These plants (called phytoplankton) have critical impacts on the marine food web and on Earth's climate. Via photosynthesis, they draw huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air, incorporating carbon into their bodies. When they die or are eaten, much of the carbon is transferred to the ocean depths, where it cannot re-enter the atmosphere.

[B.sub.12] contains the metal cobalt and can be synthesized only by certain singled-celled bacteria and archaea. Humans, animals, and many algae require [B.sub.12] to manufacture essential proteins, but they cannot make it and must either acquire it from the environment or eat food that contains [B.sub.12], said the study's lead authors, Erin Bertrand and Mak Saito.

The scientists wondered whether the vitamin was also important in the ocean, where [B.sub.12] and cobalt are both found in exceedingly low concentrations--especially around Antarctica, where the only nearby continent (a common source of metal particles blown into the sea) is largely ice-covered. Nevertheless, polar regions harbor some of the most extensive phytoplankton blooms in the world and are believed to play a significant role in exporting carbon to the deep ocean.

Bertrand, Saito, and colleagues collected water samples from three locales in the highly fertile Ross Sea off Antarctica during a 2005 expedition aboard the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. To one set of samples, they added [B.sub.12] and iron (another essential nutrient for plant growth); to a second set, they added just iron; and to a third, they added neither.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Even in the Oceans, Living Things Need Their Vitamins


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?