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UM Researchers Study Photosynthesis in Hot Yellowstone Pools

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring
The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Park. (National Park Service/Jim Peaco)

A University of Montana research team has discovered four evolutionary changes that have caused a unique innovation of photosynthetic bacteria in hot temperatures.

A UM news release reported that scientists studied the hot and hotter parts of Yellowstone Park’s Grand Prismatic Hot Spring (see photo). The researchers from UM’s Division of Biological Sciences studied the changes between a food web fed by hydrogen at near boiling point to a living bacterial community fed by sunlight at water cooled to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bacteria – also called blue-green algae – has changed over time to provide a more diverse and productive microbial mat, using the same process as plants.

The study, highlighting an examination of the enzyme RuBisCO, is in the April 1 issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution. It was written by Associate Professors Scott Miller and Michele McGuirl and Research Assistant Darla Carvey.

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