How Idoteas Help Seaweeds Reproduce

 Seagriculture EU 2024

Are sea animals involved in the reproductive cycle of algae, like pollinating insects on dry land? Dispersal of the male gametes, or spermatia, of red algae generally relies on water movement, and up until now, scientists did not recognize the role played by animals. Enter the idoteas.

An international team led by Myriam Valero, a CNRS scientist affiliated with the Evolutionary Biology and Ecology of Algae research unit (CNRS / Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile / Sorbonne University / Universidad Austral de Chile) and Roscoff Marine Station (CNRS / Sorbonne University), has revealed that tiny marine creatures called idoteas act as “sea bees” for the red alga Gracilaria gracilis.

Idoteas contribute to the fertilization of G. gracilis as they swim amid these algae. The surfaces of the male algae are dotted with reproductive structures that produce spermatia coated with mucilage, a sticky substance. As an idotea passes by, the spermatia adhere to its cuticle and are then deposited on the thalli of any female alga the crustacean comes into contact, thus helping G. gracilis reproduction.

Photo/Video Credit: CNRS and S’ABONNER

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