These deep-sea microbes eat greenhouse gases


They can also eat oil spills. I hope you are hungry, we have many things to feed you.

What an incredible planet we live. It's funny, as humans, we tend to think we know everything. or anything about our planet, at least. But the craziness is that we do not know what we do not know, and yet it is so easy to think that we know everything.

I think about it because of a recent discovery by scientists from the University of Texas at the Austin Institute of Ocean Sciences. The team installed a submarine – the one that found the Titanic – in the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California. And very deep below the surface, at 2000 meters deep, they found all kinds of previously unknown lives in microbial communities living in extremely hot (400F) deep-water sediments.

So unknown, in fact, that out of the 551 genomes examined, 22 of them represented new entries in the tree of life. According to Brett Baker, the main author of an article on discovery, these new species were genetically different enough to represent not only new branches in the tree of life, but some were different enough to represent an entirely new phyla.

Which is of course remarkable – but here everything becomes even more interesting. These small, persistent creatures live on hydrocarbons like methane and butane as sources of energy to survive and grow. "This means that newly identified bacteria could help limit greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and may one day be useful in cleaning up oil spills," the researchers say.

"This shows that the depths of the oceans contain unexplored and expansive biodiversity, and that microscopic organisms are able to degrade oil and other harmful chemicals," Baker said. "Under the ocean floor, there are now huge reservoirs of hydrocarbon gases, including methane, propane, butane, and others, and these microbes prevent greenhouse gases from occurring. Be released in the atmosphere. "

Of course, our number one priority is to limit greenhouse gas emissions and prevent oil spills – but it's foolish to imagine teams of microbes using their pollutant-eating power to help us clean up our mess.

And we still have a lot to learn.

According to the authors, only a tiny amount – about 0.1% – of the world's microbes can be grown, which means that there are still thousands, if not millions of undiscovered microbes. The team has now returned to basin sampling areas that have not yet been studied.

"We think it's probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of diversity in the Guaymas Basin," Baker said.

Who knows what else they could find? Maybe even other forms of life that we can not even imagine.

You can read the full article in Nature Communications.

They can also eat oil spills. I hope you are hungry, we have many things to feed you.


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