Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Synchronized Seaweed Sex


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The sex life of a seaweed seems at first glance haphazard--sperm and eggs spill into the water, to either fuse or die. But University of Maine ecologists Ester Serrão, Gareth Pearson, and their colleagues have found that for the common bladder wrack, or Fucus vesiculosus, fertilization is anything but hit or miss. This northern coastal seaweed shuns sex when the sea is rough and can carry its gametes--the sperm and eggs--away. When shaken in the lab, or when thrashed by turbulent currents in its natural habitat, the seaweed’s two sexes hold on to their gametes, releasing them only when the water is tranquil. In calm water, says Pearson, fertilization is nearly 100 percent successful. He thinks that calm waters may impede the flow of carbon dioxide--a gas needed for photosynthesis--from the sea into the plant. This slows photosynthesis and may cue the release of sperm and eggs. People have always imagined that things just cast their gametes into the sea, and it’s just kind of luck-- who knows how they meet or if they meet, says Pearson. This is some of the first really good evidence that organisms can sense environmental water motion and use that to time gamete release.

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In