News in Brief

To be or not to be a hunter: the tradeoffs of foraging in turbulent waters

November 9, 2012

Detailed computer simulation shows how a particle of nutrients gets distributed by turbulent water. Image courtesy of John R. Taylor and Roman StockerOceanographers have long assumed that because turbulence distributes nutrients uniformly in ocean water, and because the ability of tiny organisms to move around is insignificant compared to this turbulence, there was no reason for ocean bacteria to move at all. Sea-dwelling bacterial life, they believed, should consist just of static feeders. That view has now been upended by research conducted by Professor Roman Stocker and John R. Taylor, a former postdoctoral associate. It turns out that swimmers and passive feeders each have some advantages — but also pay some costs — in food gathering. The results, based on a computer model that for the first time considers nutrient competition by bacteria in a turbulent flow, were published in the Nov. 2 issue of Science, along with a review article by Stocker about ocean microbes interactions with their environment. Read the news story