Navigation Links
Bacteria 'feed' on earth's ocean-bottom crust
Date:5/28/2008

Seafloor bacteria on ocean-bottom rocks are more abundant and diverse than previously thought, appearing to "feed" on the planet's oceanic crust, according to results of a study reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

The findings pose intriguing questions about ocean chemistry and the co-evolution of Earth and life.

Once considered a barren plain dotted with hydrothermal vents, the seafloor's rocky regions appear to be teeming with microbial life, say scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass., University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, and other institutions.

While seafloor microbes have been detected before, this is the first time they have been quantified. Using genetic analyses, Cara Santelli of WHOI, Katrina Edwards of USC, and colleagues found three to four times more bacteria living on exposed rock than in the waters above.

"Initial research predicted that life could in fact exist in such a cold, dark, rocky environment," said Santelli. "But we really didn't expect to find it thriving at the levels we observed."

Surprised by this diversity, the scientists tested more than one site and arrived at consistent results, making it likely, according to Santelli and Edwards, that rich microbial life extends across the ocean floor.

"This may represent the largest surface area on Earth for microbes to colonize," said Edwards.

"These scientists used modern molecular methods to quantify the microbial biomass and estimate the diversity of microbes in deep-sea environments," said David Garrison, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Biological Oceanography Program. NSF's Ridge 2000 program funded the research. "We now know that this remote region is teeming with microbes, more so than anyone had guessed."

Santelli and Edwards also found that the higher microbial diversity on ocean-bottom rocks compared favorably with other life-rich places in the oceans, such as hydrothermal vents.

These findings raise the question of where these bacteria find their energy, Santelli said.

"We scratched our heads about what was supporting this high level of growth," Edwards said.

With evidence that the oceanic crust supports more bacteria than overlying water, the scientists hypothesized that reactions with the rocks themselves might offer fuel for life.

In the lab, they calculated how much biomass could be supported by chemical reactions with the rocky basalt. They then compared this figure to the actual biomass measured. "It was completely consistent," Edwards said.

This discovery lends support to the idea that bacteria survive on energy from Earth's crust, a process that could add to our knowledge about the deep-sea carbon cycle and the evolution of life.

Many scientists believe that shallow water, not deep water, is better suited for cradling the planet's first life forms. Up until now, dark, carbon-poor ocean depths appeared to offer little energy, and rich environments like hydrothermal vents were thought to be relatively sparse.

But the newfound abundance of seafloor microbes makes it possible that early life thrived--and perhaps began--on the seafloor.

"If we can really nail down what's going on, there are significant implications," Edwards said. "I hope that people turn their heads and notice: there's life down there."


'/>"/>

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Scientists find bacteria thriving on a feast of seafloor rock
2. Scientists reveal the lifestyle evolution of wild marine bacteria
3. MIT crafts bacteria-resistant films
4. Bacterial slime helps cause serious disease
5. UIC scientists discover how some bacteria survive antibiotics
6. Too much technology may be killing beneficial bacteria
7. Are sacrificial bacteria altruistic or just unlucky?
8. Tomato pathogen genome may offer clues about bacterial evolution
9. Researchers mimic bacteria to produce magnetic nanoparticles
10. Marine bacterias mealtime dash is a swimming success
11. Biologists surprised to find parochial bacterial viruses
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Bacteria 'feed' on earth's ocean-bottom crust
(Date:7/20/2017)... WASHINGTON , July 20, 2017 Delta (NYSE: ... to board any Delta aircraft at Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). ... Delta launches biometrics ... Delta,s ... Delta Sky Club is now integrated into the boarding process to ...
(Date:6/23/2017)... and ITHACA, N.Y. , June ... Cornell University, a leader in dairy research, today announced ... designed to help reduce the chances that the global ... onset of this dairy project, Cornell University has become ... Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, a food safety initiative ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... , May 23, 2017  Hunova, the first robotic gym for the ... been officially launched in Genoa, Italy . The first ... and the USA . The technology was developed ... market by the IIT spin-off Movendo Technology thanks to a 10 million ... News Release, please click: ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:8/15/2017)... ... ... Kapstone Medical is proud to announce that it has reached ... inventors develop and safeguard their latest innovations. The company has grown from a ... clients in the United States and around the world. , Company Founder and ...
(Date:8/15/2017)... ... 15, 2017 , ... The Conference Forum and The Trout ... a series of upcoming panels and events. The partnership culminates with the 4th ... in New York City. , “With our experience in producing the Immuno-Oncology 360° NYC ...
(Date:8/14/2017)... ... , ... The Conference Forum has confirmed the one-day agenda for ... 6, 2017 at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston, MA. , Returning as program ... Strategy, Pfizer Innovative Research Lab, Pfizer, who leads 19 industry speakers in discussing how ...
(Date:8/10/2017)... , ... August 09, 2017 , ... ... help the agriculture industry reach its ideal customers with the right message. Their ... , “As a Midwest company, we realize how crucial the agriculture industry is,” ...
Breaking Biology Technology: