Tiny algae uses World War I chemical agents to kill competitors

The microalgae Nitzschia cf pellucida is only a couple of micrometers across, yet this tiny organism has the ability to wage deadly biochemical war to strip its surroundings of competition.

Researchers have discovered that every morning when sunlight hits the microalgae, it begins a morning cleansing ritual, wrapping itself and its surroundings in incredibly toxic cyanogen bromide. That's the same compound that was used as a chemical weapon in the first World War.

The cyanogen bromide does a remarkably good job of killing off other microalgae and biofilms, but doesn't effect Nitzschia cf pellucida itself, for reasons that are still being discovered. Alas, this compound probably isn't going to be used to clean ship hulls or anything else soon, because, you know, it's incredibly deadly.

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