Navigation Links
Natural 'keystone molecules' punch over their weight in ecosystems

Naturally occurring "keystone" molecules that have powerful behavioral effects on diverse organisms often play large but unrecognized roles in structuring ecosystems, according to a theory proposed in the June issue of BioScience. The authors of the theory, Ryan P. Ferrer of Seattle Pacific University and Richard K. Zimmer of the University of California at Los Angeles, liken such molecules to keystone species, animals or plants that may be uncommon but exert a controlling influence, through predation or in other ways. Keystone molecules function in chemical communication and defense, and likewise have dominant consequences in nature.

Ferrer and Zimmer give four examples of keystone molecules. DMSP is a simple chemical, synthesized by single-celled marine organisms, that has powerful effects on bacteria, and through its breakdown products, on the foraging of seabirds. Saxitoxin is a potent poison, also produced by marine microbes, that repels some grazing animals but can cause massive die-offs of fishes, seabirds, and marine mammals. Tetrodotoxin is another toxic keystone molecule, but produced in the skin of newts. It prompts newt larvae to hide to avoid being cannibalized and also deters some predators. Garter snakes that feed on newts, however, can accumulate the toxin in their own tissues, which in turn provides them with predator protection. Pyrrolizidine akaloids, which are synthesized by many plants, repel most plant-eaters, but are consumed by some moths, which recycle the alkaloids and convert them into a powerful volatile pheromone that attracts mates.

Because of their multifunctional effects and importance in the sea, in fresh water, and on land, keystone molecules deserve special attention from managers seeking to conserve species, Ferrer and Zimmer argue. The loss of a species that produces or captures a keystone molecule in an area could have far-reaching effects, as could the arrival of a non-native species that disrupts flows of the molecules. Future research, Ferrer and Zimmer suggest, is likely to reveal more keystone molecules and unseen webs of natural control.


Contact: Tim Beardsley
703-674-2500 x326
American Institute of Biological Sciences

Related biology news :

1. 3D simulation shows how form of complex organs evolves by natural selection
2. University of Southern California scientists reveal natural process that blocks viruses
3. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program earns 2013 Award for Science and Technical Achievement
4. Methane emissions from natural gas local distribution focus of new study
5. New emissions standards would fuel shift from coal to natural gas
6. Men may have natural aversion to adultery with friends wives
7. The natural ecosystems in the Colombian Orinoco Basin are in danger
8. Walking in the footsteps of 19th and 20th century naturalists
9. Newly identified natural protein blocks HIV, other deadly viruses
10. Nitrogen from pollution, natural sources causes growth of toxic algae, study finds
11. Recreating natural complex gene regulation
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/30/2017)... The research team of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University ... adopting ground breaking 3D fingerprint minutiae recovery and matching technology, pushing ... for use in identification, crime investigation, immigration control, security of access ... ... A research team led by Dr Ajay ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... India , March 28, 2017 ... IP, Biometrics), Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software ... Vertical, and Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published ... Billion in 2016 and is projected to reach USD ... between 2017 and 2022. The base year considered for ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... , Mar 24, 2017 Research and ... Access System Market Analysis & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025" ... ... to grow at a CAGR of around 15.1% over the next ... This industry report analyzes the market estimates and forecasts for all ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Singh ... orphan drug designation to SBT-100, its novel anti-STAT3 (Signal Transducer and Activator of ... SBT-100 is able to cross the cell membrane and bind intracellular STAT3 and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 2017 International research firm Parks Associates announced today ... the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... home security market and how smart safety and security products impact the ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: ... "The residential security market has experienced ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer television series will feature 3 Bar ... Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global population estimates nearing ten billion ... continue to feed a growing nation. At the same time, many of our valuable ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... launched its ProxiMeta™ Hi-C metagenome deconvolution product, featuring the first commercially available ... bioinformatics software to perform Hi-C metagenome deconvolution using their own facilities, supplementing ...
Breaking Biology Technology: