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Science 329 (5989): 342-345

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Chemoattraction to Dimethylsulfoniopropionate Throughout the Marine Microbial Food Web

Justin R. Seymour,1,2,3,* Rafel Simó,4 Tanvir Ahmed,1 Roman Stocker1

Abstract: Phytoplankton-produced dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) provides underwater and atmospheric foraging cues for several species of marine invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals. However, its role in the chemical ecology of marine planktonic microbes is largely unknown, and there is evidence for contradictory functions. By using microfluidics and image analysis of swimming behavior, we observed attraction toward microscale pulses of DMSP and related compounds among several motile strains of phytoplankton, heterotrophic bacteria, and bacterivore and herbivore microzooplankton. Because microbial DMSP cycling is the main natural source of cloud-forming sulfur aerosols, our results highlight how adaptations to microscale chemical seascapes shape planktonic food webs, while potentially influencing climate at the global scale.

1 Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
2 School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, General Post Office Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia, 5001, Australia.
3 Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology, Sydney, Post Office Box 123 Broadway, New South Wales 2007, Australia.
4 Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Justin.Seymour{at}

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