Salamanders and Algae: From Roommates to Intimate Partners

Friday, Apr 30, 2021 at 10:00am

Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538

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Each spring the vernal pools throughout our region host a flurry of activity just below the surface. Amphibians meet in these locations to reproduce, leaving behind their eggs and offspring. Dr. John Burns of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences visits our local vernal pools to study the symbiotic relationship between algae and spotted salamander eggs and larva. Join us to learn about his work through an online presentation on Friday April 30th at 10 AM hosted by the Boothbay Region Land Trust. Yellow spotted salamanders migrate en masse to vernal pools to mate and lay eggs, which swell to form a dense jelly mass holding around 100 embryos each. These eggs and embryos are colonized by a tiny green alga, which have adapted to one another to both benefit from this arrangement. Alga invades the baby salamander tissues and cells forming the only known such association in any vertebrate. In this talk, Burns will speak about the salamander-alga association and discuss the context of why it is currently under intense scrutiny. The uniqueness of the interaction has implications for the development of our own adaptive immune systems. John Burns is a senior research scientist working at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. He received his bachelor’s degree in geoscience from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a master’s and Ph.D. in molecular biology from New York University. He spent five years broadening his horizons working on evolutionary biology and symbioses involving protists and algae at the American Museum of Natural History in New York before starting his own research group in Maine. Today he continues to work on symbiotic interactions, how DNA codes the shapes of cells, and how genetic patterns influence microbe functions in the world’s oceans.

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