Tag Archives: bacteria

Bacteria In A Cold Pressure Cooker

28 Mar

Mariana Trench BacteriaDo bacteria colonies at ocean depths where the pressure surpasses 1,000 times atmospheric levels worry you, or excite you (via SGU #401)?

There is abundant life at 36,000 feet below the ocean surface, living under the kind of pressure (more than 1,000 times atmospheric pressure at sea level) that would crush human bones down to liquid, according to the first data from a 2010 robotic exploration of the sediments in the Mariana Trench, in the western Pacific Ocean.

Bacterial communities are 10 times more active at the bottom of that trench than in the plains surrounding the trench, according to the findings, published in Nature Geoscience.

“The deep sea trenches are some of the last remaining ‘white spots’ on the world map. We know very little about what is going on down there or which impact the deep sea trenches have on the global carbon cycle as well as climate regulation,” said lead author Ronnie Glud, a biochemist from Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the University of Southern Denmark.

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Pretty Blue Wires

27 Oct

electric_bacteriaDesulfobulbaceae are a newly discovered family of bacteria that generate electricity.

In other words, the entire ocean bed may be electrified in the same way our nervous systems are. They’re networks of individual cells connected by electro-chemical signals — essentially they are an enormous multi-cellular organism. These bacteria "breathe" by absorbing oxygen and hydrogen sulfide, emitting water as a byproduct. They might be serving as a vast water purification system on the ocean bottom, or they might be part of a geological process that’s a lot more complex. We also have no way of knowing how other sea creatures are interacting with this giant electrical grid organism.

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Today In Water (1-05-12)

5 Jan


The sea covers seven tenths of the Earth. Its breadth is pure, and wholesome. It is an immense world, pulsating with every form of life. Here there are no despots. On the surface, men still exercise their endless laws, fight and indulge in all their bloody earthly horrors, but below the surface their power ceases… their dominion vanishes. To live, gentlemen, in the embrace of the sea… only here is there independence… here, I recognize no master… here, I am free.

Captain Nemo, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Speaking of “every form of life”, following the exploration of hydrothermal vents near Antarctica, that list continues to grow – and get weirder.

There were none of the tubeworms, polychaetes (bristly worms), clams, mussels, predatory crabs, or shrimp typically found at other deep sea vents in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. At the same time, there were a few species that overlapped with vents in the west, south, and east Pacific, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Though the yeti crab species is new, it has relations on the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge and at cold seeps off Costa Rica. In particular, the chemosynthetic (making food from inorganic chemicals) bacteria and other microbes at the base of the food chain at the Antarctic vents were similar to those found elsewhere.

The take home here, then, is not that this new vent system is from another planet (although it’s definitely more unusual than most, for reasons gone into in the Sci Am article), but that there are actually many different kinds of vent community on Earth, and that most don’t involve tube worms. The authors made an attempt to calculate just how many types there are. When their new data from the Southern Ocean were added to existing data, computers calculated that there are most likely 11.

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