Parasitic algae sheds its photosynthetic ways

A step in the transition from free-living species to parasite has been identified in insect guts.

A research team led by Jean-François Pombert from the University of British Columbia examined the genome of the algae Helicosporidium. Although its closest ancestors are free-living, this particular species survives by parasitising insect guts.

The researchers found that despite a shortened genome Helicosporidium has retained many of the functions present in its ancestors, except for photosynthesis. This suggests that the species is relatively early in its passage from free-living algae to parasitism.

Understanding this evolutionary transition further may aid research into Plasmodium, another algae-turned-parasite and the cause of malaria.

Read more at University of British Columbia