In a paper published in Science Advances, scientists from the University of Bath and the University’s Department of Marine Sciences (MMSS) have discovered that larvae of the seawoelectric algae Cnidaria spp.
can survive for years under the water, a feat that could be used to produce seaweed that has better performance than seaweed grown on land.
The seawoelection research is part of a broader effort to understand how seaweeds work, as a means to make seaweed more effective as a crop ingredient.
The research team found that the seawelectric material is able to keep alive the larvae even after being submerged for more than 24 hours.
The larval cells then survive in a stable environment that includes the presence of an oxygen-rich atmosphere and a low pH.
The results could help scientists develop seaweed products with more bioactive compounds, such as polysaccharides and bioactive peptides, which are key ingredients in seaweeds such as krill.
“These experiments are exciting, but the key question is: ‘What are the conditions under which seaweed can grow in seaweed-grown seaweed?’
That is the challenge we are working on,” says lead author Dr Daniel Wootton, a researcher at the MMSS.
“What we have done in the lab is try to understand what the conditions are under which the seaweed cells can be growing and surviving.”
The researchers used seaweed harvested from the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Stream, and the Pacific Ocean, and found that seaweed grows best under conditions that include a relatively high pH and an atmosphere with low levels of oxygen.
This is the same atmosphere that was found to be critical to the survival of the algae, which can survive in the sea for more then three years under very low temperatures and low salinity.
The researchers then exposed larvae of Cnido- and Cnidium-cocooned, algae-eating nematodes to these conditions for 24 hours, and watched how long they stayed alive.
They also looked at how long the larvae would survive without any oxygen, as well as how much they could consume without getting sick.
The larvae survived in seawater at temperatures of up to 7 degrees Celsius (17 degrees Fahrenheit), with an average salinity of about 8.3 milliliters per liter (3.6 parts per million).
However, the larval survival rate in the laboratory was just one percent, which was still significantly lower than seawater grown on soil.
“It was not very surprising that the survival rates of the Cnids were very low,” says Wootson.
“This research also provides important insights into the biology of seaweeds and the ecology of seaweed. “
“One of the important things to remember is that the conditions we are growing in are very similar to those we are likely to find in nature,” says co-author Dr Chris Hogg, an undergraduate student in the School of Biology at the University. “
“So the conditions of seawater that we grow in are also similar to the conditions found in nature, so it could be possible to create seaweed using the same plant as seaweed and the same organisms that are found in seawood. “
One of the important things to remember is that the conditions we are growing in are very similar to those we are likely to find in nature,” says co-author Dr Chris Hogg, an undergraduate student in the School of Biology at the University.
The most important thing is to make sure that there are no pests in the environment, because that is the main factor in the survival rate of the cells.” “
Even in seawoeletics, it is quite easy to grow seaweed by combining seaweed from different areas in the same lab.
The most important thing is to make sure that there are no pests in the environment, because that is the main factor in the survival rate of the cells.”
The team is now studying the effect of different seaweed varieties on the larva survival rates.
It is hoped that this work will help scientists to better understand how the algae work and to better design seaweed for a variety of conditions.