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Toxoplasma gondii

A chlorophyll containing microorganism found which does not photosynthesize

Researchers have been able to find an organism for the first time which can create chlorophyll but still does not participate in photosynthesis. This organism is named as ‘corallicolid‘ as it is found in almost 70 percent of the corals all over the world. This finding can provide clues on how to protect the ‘coral reefs’ in future.

Patrick Keeling, a researcher and botanist at the University of British Columbia said that this organism is the second most frequent cohabitant of coral in Earth but it has not been observed till now. It gives rise to several different questions related to biochemistry. A very unusual fact is that it produces chlorophyll but it is not photosynthetic at all.

Chlorophyll is a green pigment which has been found in the plants, cyanobacteria and algae and it is responsible for capturing energy from the sunlight during photosynthesis. They absorb the maximum amount of light in the blue and red regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. On the other hand, it is a poor absorber of the green and the regions in the spectrum closer to the green, because of which it is reflected in the form of green colours in tissues containing chlorophyll. It is of two types in plants, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. 


In the photosynthetic process, chlorophyll in range of several hundred molecules per photosystem absorbs light and then it transfers the light energy to a very specific chlorophyll pair in the reaction centre in the way of resonance energy. Now for corallicolids, it is quite dangerous to have chlorophylls in the cells but not performing photosynthesis in any manner as the energy which has been absorbed is not released and thus it is like a trapped explosive in the cells.

These organisms reside in the cavity of a wide range of corals that are responsible for constructing coral reefs, black and fan corals, mushroom corals and anemones. They belong to the vast group of parasites which have a cellular region called plastid and are called apicomplexans. Malaria causing parasite is a big example of an apicomplexan.

The ecological information reveals that although the coral reefs contain many apicomplexans, the most recently discovered corallicolids have been not noticed until now. The most puzzling thing is that it not only possesses plastid but also the four plastid genes used in chlorophyll production, yet does not participate in photosynthesis.

Researchers hope future research on these organisms will allow us to reveal the mystery behind them and also preserve them in a better way.

About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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