Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. Earth Science News .




SHAKE AND BLOW
Scientists Define New Limits of Microbial Life in Undersea Volcanoes
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 08, 2012


Alvin extends its mechanical arm to a high-temperature black smoker at Endeavor Segment. Credit: Bruce Strickrott/WHOI.

By some estimates, a third of Earth's organisms live in our planet's rocks and sediments, yet their lives are almost a complete mystery. This week, the work of microbiologist James Holden of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and colleagues shines a light into this dark world. In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they report the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes.

"Evidence has built that there's an incredible amount of biomass in the Earth's subsurface, in the crust and marine sediments, perhaps as much as all the plants and animals on the surface," says Holden.

"We're interested in the microbes in the deep rock, and the best place to study them is at hydrothermal vents at undersea volcanoes. Warm water there brings the nutrient and energy sources these microbes need."

Just as biologists studied the habitats and life requirements of giraffes and penguins when they were new to science, Holden says, "for the first time we're studying these subsurface microorganisms, defining their habitat requirements and determining how they differ among species."

The result will advance scientists' comprehension of biogeochemical cycles in the deep ocean, he and co-authors believe.

"Studies such as this add greatly to our understanding of microbial processes in the still poorly-known deep biosphere," says David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

The project also addresses such questions as what metabolic processes may have looked like on Earth three billion years ago, and what alien microbial life might look like on other planets.

Because the study involves methanogens--microbes that inhale hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane as waste--it may also shed light on natural gas formation on Earth.

One major goal was to test results of predictive computer models and to establish the first environmental hydrogen threshold for hyperthermophilic (super-heat-loving), methanogenic (methane-producing) microbes in hydrothermal vent fluids.

"Models have predicted the 'habitability' of the rocky environments we're most interested in, but we wanted to ground-truth these models and refine them," Holden says.

In a two-liter bioreactor at UMass Amherst where the scientists could control hydrogen levels, they grew pure cultures of hyperthermophilic methanogens from their study site alongside a commercially available hyperthermophilic methanogen species.

The researchers found that growth measurements for the organisms were about the same. All grew at the same rate when given equal amounts of hydrogen and had the same minimum growth requirements.

Holden and Helene Ver Eecke at UMass Amherst used culturing techniques to look for organisms in nature and then study their growth in the lab.

Co-investigators Julie Huber at the Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod provided molecular analyses of the microbes, while David Butterfield and Marvin Lilley at the University of Washington contributed geochemical fluid analyses.

Using the research submarine Alvin, they collected samples of hydrothermal fluids flowing from black smokers up to 350 degrees C (662 degrees F), and from ocean floor cracks with lower temperatures.

Samples were taken from Axial Volcano and the Endeavour Segment, both long-term observatory sites along an undersea mountain range about 200 miles off the coast of Washington and Oregon and more than a mile below the ocean's surface.

"We used specialized sampling instruments to measure both the chemical and microbial composition of hydrothermal fluids," says Butterfield.

"This was an effort to understand the biological and chemical factors that determine microbial community structure and growth rates."

A happy twist awaited the researchers as they pieced together a picture of how the methanogens live and work.

At the low-hydrogen Endeavour site, they found that a few hyperthermophilic methanogens eke out a living by feeding on the hydrogen waste produced by other hyperthermophiles.

"This was extremely exciting," says Holden. "We've described a methanogen ecosystem that includes a symbiotic relationship between microbes."

The research was also supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

.


Related Links
NSF
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





SHAKE AND BLOW
Long-dormant New Zealand volcano erupts
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand (AFP) Aug 7, 2012
A New Zealand volcano suddenly erupted after lying dormant for more than a century, spewing an ash plume that disrupted flights and closed highways, officials said Tuesday. The Mount Tongariro volcano, in the middle of North Island, erupted just before midnight (1200 Monday GMT) in the first significant activity at the site since 1897, the official monitoring body GNS Science said. Witne ... read more


SHAKE AND BLOW
Armageddon looming? Tell Bruce Willis not to bother

TEPCO video shows tensions as Fukushima crisis unfurls

FEMA cell-phone alerts warn too many

Queen, politicians, Nobel winner named to UN social panel

SHAKE AND BLOW
China to weed out rare earths producers?

Global Municipal Solid Waste Continues to Grow

James Cameron launches 3D joint venture in China

Apple and Android rule smartphone world: IDC

SHAKE AND BLOW
Asia, US plains facing water extraction crisis

Thai villagers in legal challenge against Laos dam

Deep-sea squid can 'jettison arms' as defensive tactic

China urges Sri Lanka to release fishermen

SHAKE AND BLOW
Tropical climate in the Antarctic

Aerial photos reveal dynamic ice sheet

Russian icebreaker sets out for expedition

Researchers analyze melting glaciers and water resources in Central Asia

SHAKE AND BLOW
Using wastewater as fertilizer

New Zealand court backs farm sale to Chinese group

Roots and microbes: Bringing a complex underground ecology into the lab

India's economic growth seen lower as rains play truant

SHAKE AND BLOW
More than one million battle Philippine floods

Typhoon sows destruction after landing in China

Philippine capital battles deadly floods

Hurricane Ernesto makes landfall in Mexico

SHAKE AND BLOW
NDPF doubts govt. can stop Boko Haram

Zambian court charge miner with Chinese boss murder

Mali needs other options if diplomacy fails: Rabat

Heritage listing spurs Congo park poaching crackdown

SHAKE AND BLOW
It's in our genes: Why women outlive men

Later Stone Age got earlier start in South Africa than thought

Modern culture 44,000 years ago

Hey, I'm over here: Men and women see things differently




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement