A certain strain of bacteria called lyngbya majuscula, an ancient ancestor of modern-day algae, is making a comeback in ocean waters just off the world’s most industrialized coastal regions. This primitive strain of bacteria has survived for nearly 3 billion years due to a variety of survival mechanisms. It can produce its own fertilizer by pulling nitrogen out of the air; it relies on a different spectrum of light than algae do, allowing it to thrive even in deep, murky waters; and when it dies and decays, it releases its own nitrogen and phosphorous, on which the next generation of lyngbya feeds.

What is one way that lyngbya majuscula has survived for billions of years?


Among the explanations given for lyngbya’s survival is that, when it dies and decays, the decaying matter, which is rich in the nutrients the strain needs to grow, sinks to the sea floor where it nourishes the next generation of lyngbya. In this sense, the strain has survived partly by its ability to sustain itself rather than relying on external nutrient sources.

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