How does it survive anything, even a tiny microbe, in the darkest depths of the deepest marine trench in the world, with a crushing 10,000 meters (32,800 feet) of water above 'them?
For the millions of microbial cultures living in this extraterrestrial environment, the only way to get your energy is to consume hydrocarbons. In fact, these weird bacteria can live on oil and other sources of hydrocarbons.
A new study, published today in the journal in open access microbiome, by the Oceanographic University of China, plunged into the world of microbes living in the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest marine trench in the Western Pacific Ocean, and also analyzed their genes.
Water samples were captured in specially designed flasks at the deepest known depth of the trench, the Deep Challenger, at depths ranging from 9 898 to 10 916 meters (32 473 to 35 813). feet). The microbes in this environment are barely understood, so this is the most in-depth study of its kind to date.
The results show that these deep seabed are covered with genera of bacteria known to consume hydrocarbons, such as Oleibacter, Thalassolituus and Alcanivorax. In fact, the proportions of oceanospirillales the bacteria are higher than anywhere else on Earth. Genetic The analysis of deep-sea inhabitants also showed that they shared many genes with oil-degrading bacteria, observed in Deepwater Horizon oil is spreading throughout the world in the Gulf of Mexico.
"The bacteria we found are similar to those of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010," said Xiao-Hua Zhang, author of the study and microbial oceanographer at Ocean University's China, at IFLScience.
"They could play a role in oil consumption," they added. "These bacteria have shown strong hydrocarbon degradation activity and could therefore play an important role in cleaning up spilled oil in the ocean, especially those flowing into deep water.
Most ocean life is fundamentally based on photosynthetic activities of phytoplankton and plants to first harness the energy of the sun. But below 200 meters (656 feet) of seawater, only insignificant light levels can be found. A depth greater than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) and the environment is black. Life must find another source of energy and nutrition.
For these bacteria, it is the consumption of hydrocarbons. However, as noted by the authors of the study, we still do not know how these bacteria get their food. Are they naturally present in the sediments of the seabed or, what is perhaps even more intriguing, these abundant colonies of bacteria feasting on oil?