New species of Hydroid Polyps emitting green fluorescence discovered in Red Sea

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Who: New species of Hydroid Polyps
Where: Farasan (Saudi Arabia, south of the Red Sea)
What: Emitting green fluorescence discovered
When: 3 February 2016

An international team of scientists (biologists) discovered a new species of hydroid polyps emitting green fluorescence in the Red Sea. These polyps were found to be emitting light in the night in association with the gastropod Nassarius margaritifer.

These hydroid polyps also called hydrozoas (presumably a new species of the genus Cytaeis, whose body length reaches 1.5 mm) was found during the investigations of the biodiversity of coral reefs of the archipelago Farasan (Saudi Arabia, south of the Red Sea).

The team included researchers from the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Russian Academy of Sciences. The results of the study are published in PLOS ONE.

Key findings of the study

•    For the first time, scientists showed that the localization of glow in certain parts of the body can help to distinguish different species of organisms that have identical structure.

•    The discovered new species form spreading colonies decorating miniature shells of gastropods Nassarius margaritifer (20-35 mm in length) with garlands of ‘fluorescent lanterns’ emitting a green glow.

•    Intensive green fluorescence with a spectral peak at 518 nm was detected in the hypostome of the Cytaeis polyps, unlike in previous reports that reported fluorescence either in the basal parts of polyps or in other locations on hydroid colonies.

•    The ‘fluorescence’ can be useful for quick identification of hardly recognizable species and for the studies of ecological peculiarities and distribution of hydroids and their hosts – mollusks.

What is Green Fluorescence?

Fluorescence is a glow of some proteins or pigments under light illumination, fading instantly after the end of the illumination.

Green fluorescent proteins (GFPs) are widespread among the corals Anthozoa and hydroid jellyfishes, and also were found in some lancelets (Cephalochordata) and combjellies (Ctenophora).

For the first time, the scientist Osama Shimomura isolated the famous GFPs from the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria that was later widely used in experimental biology as a glowing marker for study of protein work in cells.

The discovery led to awarding of Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Shimomura in 2008 along with Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien.