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måndag 15 november 2010

Tracking small things with smaller things

A major problem when studying behavior and migration of small organisms is that many questions, easily addressed for larger animals such as birds or fish, cannot be asked when it comes to animals of millimeter size, since tracking devices are too heavy to allow for the organism to act naturally. Recent advances in nanotechnology have, however, made it possible to individually track small animals. In a paper recently published in PloS One (Lard et al. 2010 PLoS ONE 5(10): e13516. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013516) we report on a novel approach to track movements and migratory behavior of millimeter sized aquatic animals, using nanometer sized fluorescent probes (quantum dots). Compared to previously used methods to label small animals, the nano-labeling method presented here offers considerable improvements. The method, developed in close cooperation between biologists, chemists and physicists, offers new opportunities to routinely study zooplankton responses to e.g. light, food and predation, i.e. opening up for advancements within research areas such as diel vertical/horizontal migration, partial migration and other differences in intra- and interspecific movements and migration. So, although our results are preliminary and the method still rough, CanMove is advancing the knowledge and opportunities also with respect to small organisms!

//Lars-Anders Hansson

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