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Earth Science

Unicellular "Enigma" Changes From Predator To Plant and Back 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-eat-greens,-food-eats-greens dept.
SilverEar writes "Imagine a creature that swims and preys on others, but once it eats a certain kind of plant, that plant grows inside it, causing the predator to lose its ability to prey and start using sunlight to make its food. Its preying mouth is replaced by an eye that is needed to find sunlight. This is the Hatena ('enigma' in Japanese). The kicker: when Hatena reproduces, one offspring is a peaceful photosynthesizer with the sun-seeking eye, while the other is yet again a predator with a voracious mouth."
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Unicellular "Enigma" Changes From Predator To Plant and Back

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 05, 2009 @01:54PM (#28587325)
    Plant or animal! Prepare the soft padded cells.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:28PM (#28587539)

      Easy solution: they will demand that plants possess the same rights as animals. Since they already demand that animals possess the same rights as humans, it will then follow that they will choose not to eat plant-based food just as they refuse to eat animal-based food (i.e., meat). This will leave them without a source of food, and the smart ones will abandon the cause while the dumb ones will die off.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Smart" isnÂt exactly the kind of adjective one should ever use to describe PETA members.

      • by rpillala (583965) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:12PM (#28589633)

        No, not the same rights as humans, just the same rights as pets. Even this is an oversimplification but I think it gets the point across.

        The point being that it is not appropriate to speak of animals having all the same rights as humans. I think this is well understood. The right to vote, for example, does not make sense since it presupposes knowledge of language, politics, issues etc. The rights that PETA members ascribe to animals, most basically, are the rights not to suffer and die at the hands of humans. These aren't that far out, when you consider the "arguments" in favor of the suffering and dying.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by rothic (596907)

          The rights that PETA members ascribe to animals, most basically, are the rights not to suffer and die at the hands of humans.

          They have a good point there. Animals suffering and dying in the mouths/claws of other animals makes for more entertaining documentaries.

        • The point being that it is not appropriate to speak of animals having all the same rights as humans.

          A quick Google will reveal people suggesting the same of the Chinese, just because their culture is different. Another (or perhaps the same) quick Google will reveal many people who said (and do say) the same of slaves.

          It's very simple: if it can be hurt and we think hurting sucks, then it should have as much rights as you not to be hurt, because, all other issues aside, YOU will suffer for hurting something

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by mugurel (1424497)
            Right! +1 insightful! Rights are not imposed or absolute, they are a convention of human society, and they have (typically ethical) grounds. If you go and think for yourself why it is that you don't murder or torture people, you will likely end up with arguments that apply equally to animals. At that point, prohibiting humans to make other humans suffer while allowing them to make animals suffer seems to be more of a convenience than a principled decision, just like it used to be more convenient to deny sla
            • by jeff4747 (256583)

              At that point, prohibiting humans to make other humans suffer while allowing them to make animals suffer seems to be more of a convenience than a principled decision

              So we should prohibit causing the suffering of humans and animals, but what about plants?

              When you tear off a leaf, a rapid cascade of hormones is set off in the plant, causing the plant to react to the damage and start healing.

              When you injure an animal, it sets off a rapid cascade of hormones causing the animal to react to the damage and start h

        • by Cormacus (976625) on Monday July 06, 2009 @09:14AM (#28593535) Homepage
          The rights that PETA members ascribe to animals, most basically, are the rights not to suffer and die at the hands of humans.

          Given PETA's record, your statement is a bit . . . ironic.

          http://www.petakillsanimals.com/ [petakillsanimals.com]
          • by rpillala (583965)

            Well, I've heard this one before and I have a couple of things to say about it. First, you can read PETA's response to this at their forum [peta.org]. I admit that posts by PETA admins are very likely to be pro-PETA, but this is in contrast to your source, a website called petakillsanimals. I don't think it will be hard to sort the bias from just facts. The PETA response provides a context that is not presented by the petakillsanimals page, which you can evaluate for yourself. The (my) tldr version of this is: PE

            • by Cormacus (976625)
              While my original response was off the cuff (and I see its been moderated "funny"), yours was calm, reasoned, and well thought out. Thank you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anenome (1250374)

        Carrot Juice is Murder:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmK0bZl4ILM [youtube.com]

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        Au contraire! Have you ever considered the health benefits of an all-mushroom diet? Fungus varieties for every occasion: portabella, morels, white mushrooms, chanterelles, etc.

    • Scientific American (Score:5, Informative)

      by deAtog (987710) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:58PM (#28587707)

      For all those interested, Scientific American [scientificamerican.com] has the story.

  • journal link (Score:5, Informative)

    by jschen (1249578) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @01:57PM (#28587357)
    Definitely an interesting result. The original article is published in Science. A free abstract can be found here [sciencemag.org].
  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:11PM (#28587421)

    This is your creator deity... And this is your creator deity on drugs.

  • Ugh (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:11PM (#28587425) Homepage Journal
    The kicker: when Hatena reproduces, one offspring is a peaceful photosynthesizer with the sun-seeking eye, while the other is yet again a predator with a voracious mouth.

    Sound like my wife
  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:13PM (#28587445)
    1. Mother eats plant 2. Plant grows inside mother 3. Mother morphs 4. Diametrically opposed sons are born 5. Decades of hilarity ensue
  • Is this your blog? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caseih (160668) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:19PM (#28587467)

    While this is extremely interesting, we need a link to the actual journal article, or to some source material, not just a link to a blog. Without that we can only assume this is an attempt to turf slashdot to drive traffic to your blog and generate ad revenues.

    • by Mark Hood (1630)

      It's alright, we killed it.

      The site, I mean - not the wacky organism...

    • by TerranFury (726743) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:58PM (#28587709)
      The blog contains two citations as endnotes:

      Okamoto, N. (2005). A Secondary Symbiosis in Progress? Science, 310 (5746), 287-287 DOI: 10.1126/science.1116125 OKAMOTO, N., & INOUYE, I. (2006). Hatena arenicola gen. et sp. nov., a Katablepharid Undergoing Probable Plastid Acquisition Protist, 157 (4), 401-419 DOI: 10.1016/j.protis.2006.05.011

      Also, whereas blogs are freely-available, you need a subscription to read the journal article -- so I think that the way this was done is the best way.

    • by Shipud (685171) *

      While this is extremely interesting, we need a link to the actual journal article, or to some source material, not just a link to a blog. Without that we can only assume this is an attempt to turf slashdot to drive traffic to your blog and generate ad revenues.

      1) The blog has no ads 2) The links to the original article are in the end of the post 3) How do you expect to understand an article in a scientific journal, when your reading skills are so obviously lacking as to not notice (1) and (2)

  • Hrm, one sibling is conniving and aggressive; and the other prefers to be left to its own devices. Sounds just like humans.
  • Cordyceps (Score:4, Informative)

    by natmakarvitch (645080) <nat@makarevitch.org> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:23PM (#28587487) Homepage Journal
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps_sinensis [wikipedia.org] , albeit multicellular, is also somewhat astonishing
  • Memeaholic (Score:5, Funny)

    by senorpoco (1396603) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:23PM (#28587499)
    I for one welcome our new single celled predatory overlords, but deride their single celled hippy photosynthesizing cousins.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by H0p313ss (811249)

      I for one welcome our new single celled predatory overlords, but deride their single celled hippy photosynthesizing cousins.

      Phylumist!

  • by az-saguaro (1231754) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:37PM (#28587583)

    Biology is full of promoter-inhibitor relationships, and this seems like an interesting one. When the algae is inside the protist, the host's "animal" behaviors and anatomy are suppressed, but they clearly remain in a latent state, ready to reactivate after fission. It makes one wonder to what extent chloroplasts remain as endosymbionts versus organelles in genuine plant species. So . . .
    . . .
    Does anyone know of any research where chloroplasts were removed from plant cells in culture, to see if the remaining cells revert to some atavistic animal-like exogenous-food-seeking state?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't happen -- they're endosymbionts. Without chloroplasts/mitochondria regular plant/animal cells can't function -- no electron transport chain. That's why people with mitochondrial myopathy are sick, as their mitochondria don't work properly so they don't make enough ATP.
      The chloroplasts/mitochondria have outsourced amino acid production (among other things), so without the host, they can't survive.
       

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by az-saguaro (1231754)

        Correct, that is our conventional understanding of things. But what if there are other primitive energy capture and translation systems that remain repressed or down regulated by the presence of these structures? What if a cell could be kept on "life support" for a few hours or days after removing its mitochondria or chloroplasts, enough for up regulation of latent genes that will revert the cell back into a some sort bacteria-like mode of metabolism? Granted, it is much less likely for advanced eukaryot

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Plants w/o chloroplasts. I remember something from biology where they keep some corn alive that is hybrid for a critical gene--if missing the chloroplasts don't divide. If self-crossed, one-fourth of the corn is albino and dies as soon as it runs out of stored energy in the seed.

          However, see Indian Pipe [wikipedia.org] for a plant that doesn't have chloroplasts.

      • by jeff4747 (256583)

        Without chloroplasts/mitochondria regular plant/animal cells can't function -- no electron transport chain

        Incorrect. Plant cells have both chloroplasts and mitochondria. Removal/inactivation of the chloroplasts wouldn't kill the cell as long as it was supplied with food for the mitochondria.

  • by hedgemage (934558) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @04:15PM (#28588265)
    But when I read the article summary, one of the first questions on my mind was... How does it interact with Japanese schoolgirls?
    • But when I read the article summary, one of the first questions on my mind was... How does it interact with Japanese schoolgirls?

      Why, with tentacles ofcourse!

    • by Hillgiant (916436)

      The eye (or mouth, depending on where it is in the life cycle) is replaced with a tentacle.

  • by Randwulf (997659) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @05:01PM (#28588581)
    You are what you eat!
  • This gives the organism the ability to take advantage of any advances in Photosynthesis that the prey has made! Thereby incorporating them in future generations! Like some people I know! Always upgrading to the latest and greatest!
  • by mqduck (232646)

    After ingesting the algae, this mouth disappears. Instead, it is replaced by an eyespot from the algae. The eyespot is a light sensing organelle, a very primitive eye that guides algae to light sources. In this case, it also guides the host, Hatena, to light. Hatena has obvioulsy stopped feeding, and least through its mouth. It is now swimming to the light, letting the alga photosynthesize its food for both of them.

    Doesn't that quality the hatena as a parasite?

    • After ingesting the algae, this mouth disappears. Instead, it is replaced by an eyespot from the algae. The eyespot is a light sensing organelle, a very primitive eye that guides algae to light sources. In this case, it also guides the host, Hatena, to light. Hatena has obvioulsy stopped feeding, and least through its mouth. It is now swimming to the light, letting the alga photosynthesize its food for both of them.

      Doesn't that quality the hatena as a parasite?

      No, I believe you're referring to "Parisians".

  • OT, but just FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:33PM (#28589733)
    "Hatena" doesn't really mean "enigma". It's actually an interjection, and a more accurate translation would be something like "Weird!" or "Oh man!".
  • Old news (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @11:43PM (#28590649)

    A food that, when eaten, transforms an agressive predator into a passive life form....

    Wedding cake.

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      A food that, when eaten, transforms an agressive predator into a passive life form....

      A food that, when eaten, transforms an passive life form into a agressive predator ....

      There, fixed that for ya.
      Or were you talking about the chief bridesmaid?

    • A food that, when eaten, transforms an agressive predator into a passive life form....

      Wedding cake.

      Passive-aggressive life form you mean.

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday July 06, 2009 @02:55AM (#28591687)
    But it's very interesting, nonetheless. The real question is: Does the plant tame the predator, or does the predator domesticate the plant? Btw, no one tagged this story "symbiosis"? I can't seem to tag stories.
  • A large number of your average corals on the reef do this daily. They both capture plankton and use symbiosis with photosynthetic algae in their bodies.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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