As little as 20 meters (66 feet) below the surface of Lake Huron, the third largest of North America's Great Lakes, peculiar geological formations--sinkholes made by water dissolving parts of an ancient underlying seabed--harbor bizarre ecosystems where the fish typical of the huge freshwater lake are rarely to be seen.
Instead, brilliant purple mats of cyanobacteria--cousins of microbes found at the bottoms of permanently ice-covered lakes in Antarctica--and pallid, floating ponytails of other microbial life thrive in the dense, salty water that's hostile to most familiar, larger forms of life because it lacks oxygen.
Groundwater from beneath Lake Huron is dissolving minerals from the defunct seabed and carrying them into the lake to form these exotic, extreme environments, says Bopaiah A. Biddanda of Grand Valley State University, in Muskegon, Mich., one of the leaders of a scientific team studying the sinkhole ecosystems. Those ecosystems are in a class not only with Antarctic lakes, but also with deep-sea, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps.
"You have this pristine fresh water lake that has what amounts to materials from 400 million years ago ... being pushed out into the lake," says team co-leader Steven A. Ruberg of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).The researchers describe this little-known underwater habitat and their ongoing investigations of it in the current issue of Eos, the newspaper of the Earth and Space Sciences, published weekly by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
AGU is the world's largest organization of Earth and space scientists.
The scientists report that some deep sinkholes act as catch basins for dead and decaying plant and animal matter and collect a soft black sludge of sediment topped by a bacterial film. In the oxygen-depleted water, cyanobacteria carry out photosynthesis using sulfur compounds rather than water and give off hydrogen sulfide, the gas associated with rotting eggs. Where the sinkholes are deeper still and light fails, microorganisms use chemical means rather than photosynthesis to metabolize the sulfurous nutrients.
Biddanda, Ruberg, and their team are probing the origins of ancient minerals flowing in from beneath this fresh inland sea, striving to understand how long ago the minerals were deposited that are now entering the lake and how fast the salty brew containing them is arriving. The scientists also plan to chart transitions from light, oxygen-rich, fresh water near the lake's surface to dark, anoxic, salty soup down inside the sinkholes.
The sinkhole research--funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research--may shed light on how similar microbial communities can arise in environments as disparate as Antarctic lakes, deep-sea vents, and freshwater-lake sinkholes, the scientists say. Biddanda adds, "it might also lead to the discovery of novel organisms and previously unknown biochemical processes, furthering our exploration of life on Earth."
Peter Weiss | American Geophysical Union
Further reports about: > Antarctic Predators > Antarctic lakes > Deep-sea > Earth's magnetic field > Great lake's sinkholes > Lake Baikal > Oxygen > Science TV > chemical process > cold seeps > cousins of microbes > cyanobacteria > exotic ecosystems > extreme conditions > hydrothermal vents > oxygen-depleted water > peculiar geological formations--sinkholes
A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
24.05.2018 | University of Washington
Tropical Peat Swamps: Restoration of Endangered Carbon Reservoirs
24.05.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy