Scientists have managed to solve one of the most intriguing mysteries of water: they found out how it can store information about the people who inhabit it. It turned out that some of the organic molecules trapped in the water, can be stored in it long enough. It's weird — in theory, they should be immediately destroyed. But somehow it does not.
Tradition has it that the water medium transmits odors over long distances is worse than the air. The reason is that signaling molecules, the aggregate of which, strictly speaking, is any odor, being very active in the solvent, which is even distilled water, rapidly disintegrates. In addition, because of the constant currents (that is, even in standing water) concentration of odor substances immediately decreases dramatically — just molecules quickly spread in all directions.
At the same time, biologists and chemists was left by the fact that virtually all aquatic animals developed organs of smell is much better than other receptors. And, apparently, their work is very effective. So, has long been known that a shark can smell a victim at a distance of several hundred meters. And yet at the same thing happens in the ocean — the sea water due to the high concentration of salts active than fresh.
And recently, this paradox was resolved by a study conducted by the Institute of Polar Research Alfred Wegener, Professor Boris Koch. Scientist using spectrometry method, found a remarkable thing. Exact mass spectrometer showed that the water after the breakdown of organic matter for a long time remain its single molecules.
"Water is a chemical" memory "to keep information about the organisms are in it as a single organic molecules. We learned to determine what part of the organisms were these molecules and how long they were in the water," — says the researcher. According to him, the spectrometer can accurately determine the atomic structure of the molecule, and, moreover, the proportion of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc. Based on this, we can recover shape of the molecule itself, and even to determine what part of the body before it was.
According to the study of Koch, often water keeps carbohydrates and organic acids. And after all these substances are found in most secret allocated surface of the body, such as mucus fish and many invertebrates. Of course, the composition of mucus and other excreta is specific to each species. Perhaps that is why the shark and found the victim in the far distance without any errors — it simply follows the trail of organic molecules, which are stored for a long time, sometimes for several days. And, guided by specific odor, bloodthirsty predator immediately understands, whose trail is — harmless for her tuna of dolphins that can be better still not to communicate.
Furthermore, they were also able to determine that the water is long enough to store information about the death of the animal. Some molecules his decaying body are in a place where being suffered death, a very, very long time. Apparently, it is they who are the signals for many marine scavengers such as hagfish and crabs that they see is bad enough, but without any trouble seek out the dead immediately after his death. "That is, it turns out that the water retains the memory of the dead as well as the receptionist in the appropriate Office" — jokes scientist.
Interestingly, the discovery of Koch yet contradicts some of the laws of organic chemistry. According to them, any organic molecule after exposure to sea water very quickly to decompose into simple components, such as carbon dioxide and water. But in this case it does not. But why? Perhaps due to the fact that excretory substances capable of forming water molecules complexes, which are resistant to any "destroyers."
But what is the limit of the existence of these stable compounds? The paper refers to a few days, but it is possible that such an idea has developed because the experiments were limited. Perhaps molecular information can be stored for months or even years. All this should be checked by conducting research is not in the lab and in the ocean.
If so, then this technology can be used, for example, to track migration routes of various marine animals. In fact, members of AWI planning next summer in Antarctica to take samples of water near the colonies of southern elephant seals to confirm this assumption. Also, they are going to work with the sharks, so that changing the concentration of organic matter in the water, to understand whether aquatic animals can navigate in the ocean "by the smell," feeling an increased concentration of certain molecules.
Finally, such a study has yet another interesting perspective. Realizing how long the water can be kept organic molecules can set the limit "capacity" of the ocean as the largest reservoir in the world of organics. And keep track of how much CO2 is produced in the ocean, and what — comes from outside. This will help to finally decide on the notorious greenhouse effect. Is it the place to be?
Category: Scientists, experts, science