Newly found deep-sea microbes could help in the fight against global warming

Newly found deep-sea microbes that gobble up greenhouse gases could fight global warming and one day clean up OIL SPILLS

  • Researchers identified nearly two dozen new species of microbe
  • Many gobble up greenhouse gases and other waste to survive and grow
  • The creatures could one day remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere

Harry Pettit For Mailonline

‘This shows the deep oceans contain expansive unexplored biodiversity,’ said study lead author Dr Brett Baker.

‘Beneath the ocean floor huge reservoirs of hydrocarbon gases – including methane, propane, butane and others – exist now, and these microbes prevent greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.’

The microscopic organisms ‘are capable of degrading oil and other harmful chemicals’, he added.

Experts used a submersible research vessel called Alvin (pictured) to analyse sediment 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) below the surface

Experts used a submersible research vessel called Alvin (pictured) to analyse sediment 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) below the surface

Experts analysed sediment 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) below the surface, where volcanic activity raises temperatures to around 390F (200C).

Samples were collected using the Alvin submersible, the same sub that found the Titanic, because the microbes live in extreme environments.

In total, recovered 551 genomes, and DNA analyses showed 22 of them represented new entries in the tree of life.

Their genes suggest the microbes take in hydrocarbons to survive and grow, an unusual trait that could be used to clean up pollutants in future. 

Brett Baker (left) and pilot Jefferson Grau inside the deep-sea submersible Alvin during a dive in the Guaymas Basin in November 2018

Brett Baker (left) and pilot Jefferson Grau inside the deep-sea submersible Alvin during a dive in the Guaymas Basin in November 2018

Only about 0.1 percent of the world’s microbes can be cultured, which means there are thousands, maybe even millions, of microbes yet to be discovered.

‘We think that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of diversity in the Guaymas Basin,’ Dr Baker said.

‘So, we’re doing a lot more DNA sequencing to try to get a handle on how much more there is.

‘This paper is really just our first hint at what these things are and what they are doing.’ 


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