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Saving the Iguanas With Science and Engineering (Video)

Saving the Iguanas With Science and Engineering (Video)

July 3, 2019

Natural Sciences

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All ecosystems around the globe are impacted by the interplay between herbivores and their gut microbes. An example of this can be found in the Galapagos Islands, where marine iguanas have evolved to graze exclusively on fast-growing algae found on the shores of the archipelago’s island.

Due to their strict dependency on just one type of algae, these iguanas are highly susceptible to environmental fluctuations that change the type of algae available on the islands.

Prof. Itzik Mizrahi, a biologist and head of the Mizrahi Lab at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, teamed up with Prof. Otto Cordero of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and researchers from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito to identify the enzymes and microbes responsible for the algal breakdown. They also sought to study potential microbiome interventions that could help in expanding the iguana diet and enable them to consume other forms of algae.

If successful, this would represent a novel strategy for conservation based on microbiome engineering.