It’s one of the only sea creatures known to carry sperm on its body.
Demitry Skorinoff / 500px/500px/Getty Images
Most plants couldn’t survive without bees, thanks to their ability to pollinate and help stationary organisms reproduce.
Seaweed is not a true plant, but algae. Most species of algae are thought to reproduce asexually or rely on currents in the ocean to spread mature sex cells, known as gametes.
© IRL 3614, Station Biologique de Roscoff, CNRS, SU, Roscoff, France
However, there might be an exception to those rules, report a team of researchers this week in the journal Science.
© Wilfried Thomas @Station Biologique de Roscoff, CNRS, SU, Roscoff, France
Meet the tiny isopod Idotea balthica.
It has an affinity for the red algae Gracilaria gracilis, which grows in bunches of scraggly seaweed, creating the perfect shelter from predators.
But it’s an extremely common presence on G. gracilis, so the researchers wondered if it could potentially be aiding the seaweed in a mutual benefit.
For the study, they designed two experiments to see if the isopods moved gametes from male to female samples of seaweed.
© Sebastien Colin; Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany; Station Biologique de Roscoff, CNRS, SU, Roscoff, France
It turns out I. balthica does have the ability to transport gametes between seaweed in a similar way to how a bumblebee carries a plant’s pollen on its fuzzy legs.
The isopod didn’t appear until far after Gracilaria algae cropped up in Earth’s oceans.