Vitamin B-12, and a Knockoff Version, Create Complex Market for Marine Vitamins 

The finding helps explain where algae and other organisms get a vitamin that is essential to fueling marine life.

oceanographic sampler, a rosette of bottles to collect water
Oceanographic sampler known as a rosette uses bottles to collect water from different depths. Samples from a 2013 expedition contained vitamins. Credit: Kevin Simans/University of Washington

The New Year is a busy time for pharmacies and peddlers of all health-related products. In the oceans, marine organisms rely on nutrients, too, but the source of their vitamins is sometimes mysterious.

University of Washington oceanographers, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Simons Foundation, have now found that vitamin B-12 exists in two distinct versions in the oceans. A microbe thought to be a main supplier of B-12 in the open oceans, cyanobacteria, is actually making a “pseudo” version that only its kin can use.

The study has implications for where algae and other organisms can get a vitamin that is essential to fueling marine life. The paper is in the Jan. 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I think the world is getting used to the idea that all lifeforms are in some ways dependent on microorganisms,” said corresponding author Anitra Ingalls, a UW associate professor of oceanography and an investigator with the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE). “This is another case where microorganisms are playing a really big role in the survival of others, but not quite in the way that we had expected.”

Read the full story at the University of Washington news site.>>

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