Corals have evolved over millennia to live, and even thrive, in waters with few nutrients. In healthy reefs, the water is often exceptionally clear, mainly because corals have found ways to make optimal use of the few resources around them. Any change to these conditions can throw a coral’s health off balance.
Now, researchers at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), in collaboration with oceanographers and marine biologists in Cuba, have identified microbes living within the slimy biofilms of some coral species that may help protect the coral against certain nutrient imbalances.
The team found these microbes can take up and “scrub out” nitrogen from a coral’s surroundings. At low concentrations, nitrogen can be an essential nutrient for corals, providing energy for them to grow. But an overabundance of nitrogen, for instance from the leaching of nitrogen-rich fertilizers into the ocean, can trigger mats of algae to bloom. The algae can outcompete coral for resources, leaving the reefs stressed and bleached of color.
By taking up excess nitrogen, the newly identified microbes may prevent algal competition, thereby serving as tiny protectors of the coral they inhabit. While corals around the world are experiencing widespread stress and bleaching from global warming, it seems that some species have found ways to protect themselves from other, nitrogen-related sources of stress.
“One of the aspects of finding these organisms in association with corals is, there’s a natural way that corals are able to combat anthropogenic influence, at least in terms of nitrogen availability, and that’s a very good thing,” says Andrew Babbin, the Doherty Assistant Professor in Ocean Utilization in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “This could be a very natural way that reefs can protect themselves, at least to some extent.”
Babbin and his colleagues, including MIT graduate students Diana Dumit, Tyler Tamasi, Laura Weber, and Sarah Schwartz, have reported their findings in the ISME Journal.
Dead zone analogues
Babbin’s group studies how marine communities in the ocean cycle nitrogen, a key element for life. Nitrogen in the ocean can take various forms, such as ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Babbin has been especially interested in studying how nitrogen cycles, or is taken up, in anoxic environments — low-oxygen regions of the ocean, also known as “dead zones,” where fish are rarely found and microbial life can thrive.
“Locations without enough oxygen for fish are where bacteria start doing something different, which is exciting to us,” Babbin says. “For instance, they can start to consume nitrate, which has then an impact on how productive a specific part of the water can be.”
Dead zones are not the only anoxic regions of the ocean where bacteria exhibit nitrogen-feasting behavior. Low-oxygen environments can be found at smaller scales, such as within biofilms, the microbe-rich slime that covers marine surfaces from shipwrecked hulls to coral reefs.
“We have biofilms inside us that allow different anaerobic processes to happen,” Babbin notes. “The same is true of corals, which can generate a ton of mucus, which acts as this retardation barrier for oxygen.”
Despite the fact that corals are close to the surface and within reach of oxygen, Babbin wondered whether coral slime would serve to promote “anoxic pockets,” or concentrated regions of low oxygen, where nitrate-consuming bacteria might thrive.
He broached the idea to WHOI marine microbiologist Amy Apprill, and in 2017, the researchers set off with a science team on a cruise to Cuba, where Apprill had planned a study of corals in the protected national park, Jardines de la Reina, or Gardens of the Queen.
“This protected area is one of the last refuges for healthy Caribbean corals,” Babbin says. “Our hope was to study one of these less impacted areas to get a baseline for what kind of nitrogen cycle dynamics are associated with the corals themselves, which would allow us to understand what an anthropogenic perturbation would do to that system.”
Swabbing for scrubbers
In exploring the reefs, the scientists took small samples from coral species that were abundant in the area. Onboard the ship, they incubated each coral specimen in its own seawater, along with a tracer of nitrogen — a slightly heavier version of the molecules found naturally in seawater.
They brought the samples back to Cambridge and analyzed them with a mass spectrometer to measure how the balance of nitrogen molecules changed over time. Depending on the type of molecule that was consumed or produced in the sample, the researchers could estimate the rate at which nitrogen was reduced and essentially denitrified, or increased through other metabolic processes.
In almost every coral sample, they observed rates of denitrification were higher than most other processes; something on the coral itself was likely taking up the molecule.
The researchers swabbed the surface of each coral and grew the slimy specimens on Petri dishes, which they examined for specific bacteria that are known to metabolize nitrogen. This analysis revealed multiple nitrogen-scrubbing bacteria, which lived in most coral samples.
“Our results would imply that these organisms, living in association with the corals, have a way to clean up the very local environment,” Babbin says. “There are some coral species, like this brain coral Diploria, that exhibit extremely rapid nitrogen cycling and happen to be quite hardy, even through an anthropogenic change, whereas Acropora, which is in rough shape throughout the Caribbean, exhibits very little nitrogen cycling. ”
Whether nitrogen-scrubbing microbes directly contribute to a coral’s health is still unclear. The team’s results are the first evidence of such a connection. Going forward, Babbin plans to explore other parts of the ocean, such as the tropical Pacific, to see whether similar microbes exist on other corals, and to what extent the bacteria help to preserve their hosts. His guess is that their role is similar to the microbes in our own systems.
“The more we look at the human microbiome, the more we realize the organisms that are living in association with us do drive our health,” Babbin says. “The exact same thing is true of coral reefs. It’s the coral microbiome that defines the health of the coral system. And what we’re trying to do is reveal just what metabolisms are part of this microbial network within the coral system.”
This research was supported, in part, by MIT Sea Grant, the Simons Foundation, the MIT Montrym, Ferry, and mTerra funds, and by Bruce Heflinger ’69, SM ’71, PhD ’80.
Thieves Stole About $450,000 from Crypto Trader at Knifepoint
A Hong Kong woman has fallen victim to a gang of robbers after conducting a crypto transaction worth almost $450,000.
Gang of Four Steal $450K From Hong Kong Crypto Trader
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, a female crypto trader was held at knifepoint by a gang of thieves, who stole HK $3.5 million ($448,700) from the victim.
As part of the robbery operation, one of the thieves posed as a prospective cryptocurrency buyer. The woman had earlier conducted different crypto transactions for the man, ranging between HK$600,000 and HK$700,000.
Hong Kong authorities stated that the trader sold Tether (USDT) tokens to the man via her iPhone and was later lured to an office to receive payment in cash. Shortly after receiving the money, other members of the gang held the trader at knifepoint to steal the money and her iPhone.
Authorities were able to get wind of the robbery after the victim contacted her husband with a second phone, who in turn called the police. Meanwhile, authorities are conducting a search for the gang.
The woman’s uncle, who escorted her to the location of the transaction, also told the police that he saw four men fleeing the scene of the crime.
The details of the attack also closely resemble another incident from earlier in January when a gang of four robbers stole HK $3 million from another crypto trader. In the earlier case, the hoodlums also posed as prospective buyers, completed a few transactions to gain trust before pouncing on their victim.
Armed Robbers and Kidnappers on the Prowl for Crypto Owners
Physical crypto-related thefts are reportedly a regular occurrence in Hong Kong, with the number of such incidents doubling between 2019 and 2020. Indeed, the growing value of cryptocurrencies seemingly provides incentives for armed robbers looking for victims.
Back in 2018, a police officer in India was among a group of people arrested in connection with the kidnapping and extortion of a businessman to the tune of over $49 million.
CryptoPotato compiled a list of crypto security tips for investors and traders to safeguard their wallets and crypto. One of the important things to consider is keeping your holdings private and be very careful when it comes to peer-to-peer transactions.
3 key reasons why Polkastarter (POLS) price rallied 500% since December
Polkastarter (POLS) is a cross-chain token pool and auction protocol built on the Polkadot (DOT) blockchain. It launched in October of 2020 as a way for projects to raise capital in a decentralized environment and since January the token has rallied 500% to a new high at $1.78.
Three possible reasons for the recent growth of POLS are the strong rally seen from Polkadot, strategic partnerships and exchange listings and an expanding list of token launches via auctions.
The rise of Polkadot
The rising popularity of the Polkadot network is arguably the most significant influencer on the price of POLS. Similar to Kusama, Polkastarter’s association with Polkadot could attract additional user and investor attention.
Polkadot’s rally began on Dec. 27, 2020, and it culminated on Jan.15 as DOT saw a 75% price increase in one week. POLS strong rally also reignited on Dec. 27 and followed a similar trajectory to DOT.
Now that DOT has flipped XRP to become the fourth-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, further price strength for Polkadot has the potential to have a positive impact on the overall performance of Polkastarter.
Exchange listings and partnerships
Prior to Jan. 14 POLS was only available on Uniswap and Poloniex. At the time its liquidity was limited and high ETH gas fees also complicated matters for those thinking about trading the token.
After the Huobi exchange announced plans to list POLS on Jan. 14, its trading volume increased from an average of $2 million to $22 million overnight.
Now the POLS community is working on being listed at OKEx and a recent tweet from the project informed supporters that the project only needs 2,000 more votes to qualify.
Listing POLS on another high-volume exchange has the potential to further boost the token’s price as more people will have access to one of the fastest-growing Polkadot based projects.
Successful auctions and token launches
Similar to the initial coin offerings (ICO) that occurred in 2017 and 2018, Polkastarter is gaining momentum due to its ability to attract capital heavy investors looking for the opportunity to get first access to the newest blockchain projects.
Polkastarter’s protocol is designed to enable cross-chain token pools and auctions as a method of raising capital in a decentralized fashion. To date, the platform has conducted 12 separate Initial Decentralized exchange Offerings (IDOs) with 20 different pools consisting of both public and private offerings. To date, only one pool failed to sell out.
The strong rally seen from DOT has only increased the desire of projects wanting to develop on top of Polkadot in order to capitalize on its growing popularity as well as avoid the challenges associated with building on Ethereum.
Tosdis, the most recent IDO conducted on Polkastarter, tweeted the following after its successful auction as an example of the platform’s growing popularity:
“We are really delighted to announce that our IDO on Polkastarter is sold out. POLS pool was sold out in record 30 seconds. After fixing some overloading and gas issues, the public pool was sold out in 90 minutes. We are overwhelmed by the support. Thank you and Stay tuned.”
Polkadot’s rise, successful IDOs on the Polkastarter platform and the listing of POLS on new exchanges have helped propel the value of the token to new highs and investors are optimistic that these strong fundamentals will push the price higher.
In addition to these fundamental factors, Ether’s (ETH) recent surge to a new all-time high has many analysts calling for the start of a new ‘altcoin season’. According to Raoul Pal, the CEO and co-founder of Real Vision Group and Global Macro Investor, traders are likely to plow into “higher risk alts” after Ether secures a new all-time high.
If this prediction does come to pass, it could also mean even brighter days are ahead for the Polkastarter ecosystem.
Latest CME Report Reveals Growing Appetite for Bitcoin Amongst Institutions
- Bitcoin has been consolidating within the $30,000 region throughout the past few days and weeks
- Bulls and bears have largely reached an impasse, with buyers and sellers both being unable to spark any trend
- This comes as large institutional inflows show some signs of tapering, with these buyers largely being viewed as the ones responsible for the recent market-wide surge
- The latest Commitment of Traders (CoT) report from the CME reveals a striking trend – institutions are increasingly adding to their long exposure
- This seems to invalidate the notion that institutions are slowing their accumulation habits and may point to an imminent wave two of buying from these parties
Bitcoin has seen mixed price action as of late, with the selling pressure in the upper-$30,000 region slowing its ascent as bulls and bears largely reach an impasse.
Where the crypto market trends in the mid-term may depend largely, if not entirely, on whether or not Bitcoin can continue stabilizing or break above $40,000.
Any strong rejection here could cause the crypto to see some notable losses that potentially lead altcoins to follow suit and selloff as well.
One positive trend that seems to bode well for Bitcoin’s outlook is growing long-exposure from institutions using the CME.
This trend suggests that institutions are still pouring money into the market.
Bitcoin Stagnates as Consolidation Phase Persists
At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading up just under 2% at its current price of $36,700. This marks a notable decline from daily highs of nearly $38,000 set just a couple of hours ago.
The entire market retraced with BTC, but ETH and other altcoins are all trading up significantly from where they were just a few days ago.
Institutional Traders Are Increasingly Long on BTC
One positive trend for Bitcoin is the growing presence of institutions in the market, which is a large part of why it has been rallying so heavily throughout the past few months.
Although they may be bidding less aggressively on BTC as it hovers around its all-time highs, data from the CME’s latest Commitment of Trader’s report indicates that long interest for BTC amongst institutions is steadily climbing.
“12 – January CME $BTC Commitments of Traders (COT) report – Open Interest: 12,039 up 6.5%”
Image Courtesy of Unfolded. Source: TradingView.
The coming few days should shine some light on whether or not the constant rejection seen by Bitcoin in the upper-$30,000 region will have any impacts on its mid-term trend.
Featured image from Unsplash. Charts from TradingView.
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