A microbe's surprising defense

A single-celled phytoplankton has a wily way of resisting viral attack, according to a study out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The organism makes itself invisible to its viral predator by shifting from the diploid to haploid life cycle stage. The findings are the first to show a eukaryote is capable of switching stages in its life cycle to avoid viral attack, and to point to a previously unrecognized role of sexual reproduction in the phytoplankton, Emiliania

Jennifer Evans
Sep 28, 2008
A single-celled phytoplankton has a wily way of resisting viral attack, according to a study out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The organism makes itself invisible to its viral predator by shifting from the diploid to haploid life cycle stage. The findings are the first to show a eukaryote is capable of switching stages in its life cycle to avoid viral attack, and to point to a previously unrecognized role of sexual reproduction in the phytoplankton, Emiliania huxleyi (E. huxleyi), as an alternative to classical evolutionary host-predator dynamic, where hosts and predator co-evolve. "In this paper, we show how a species can escape from [environmental] pressure by switching to a life-cycle phase or form that's not recognizable by a predator," said Miguel Frada, a marine microbiologist at Equipe Evolution du Plancton et PaleoOceans in France and first author on the study....
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