Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unusual microbial ropes grow slowly in cave lake

23.12.2008
Deep inside the Frasassi cave system in Italy and more than 1,600 feet below the Earth's surface, divers found filamentous ropes of microbes growing in the cold water, according to a team of Penn State researchers.
"Sulfur caves are a microbiology paradise. Many different types of organisms live in the caves and use the sulfur," says Jennifer L. Macalady, assistant professor of geosciences. "We are trying to map which organisms live where in the caves and how they correspond to the geochemical environment."

In this process, Macalady and her team discovered a previously unknown form of biofilm growing in the oxygen-deficient portion of the lake.

"The cave explorers had seen these strange biofilms," says Macalady. "So we asked them if they could get us a sample."

The Frasassi cave system is located north of Rome and south of Venice in the Marche region. These limestone caves are like New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns and Lechuguilla Cave, but in those caves, sulfur entered the caves from oil and gas reserves, while in Italy, the sulfur source is a thick gypsum layer below. Having sulfur in the environment allows sulfur-using organisms to grow.

The researchers received about the weight of two paper clips of the strange rope to analyze. They reported the results of their DNA sequencing today (Dec. 19) at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco.

"We did not retrieve any sequences for known methane-producing organisms or known methane oxidizers," says Macalady.

The researchers did find that about half the organisms were bacteria and the other half belonged to another single-celled group of organisms called archaea. The researchers identified half the bacteria as sulfate reducers, bacteria that convert sulfates into sulfide to obtain energy. Of the archaea, more than half were associated with organisms usually found in deep sea sediments and referred to as marine benthic group D (MBG-D). Researchers do not know how MBG-D organisms obtain energy, although they are always found in oxygen-less locations.

The 2 inches of ropey biofilm under study was two-tenth of an inch in diameter. Microscopic images of the rope show that some of the single-celled organisms have shapes that intertwine with each other and some have tendrils.

"We do not know why the have the shape they do," says Macalady. "Microorganisms in them likely secrete some sticky goo, an extra-cellular polymeric substance -- slime that holds them together."

What the researchers do know is that the location where these ropes grow is very low in available energy -- considered an energy-limiting environment. The location can support only very slow growth. The ropes range in length from one to two meters, and radiocarbon dating places them at 1,000 to 2,000 years old.

"Previous researchers have estimated the rate of cell growth in some deep sea sediments to a cell division every thousand years," says Macalady.

Microscopic images of the rope using three dyes, one for DNA, one for bacteria and one for archaea, show very little activity in the bacteria or archaea, probably because the dyes highlight ribosomes and they only exist in a cell when it is actively metabolizing.

The researchers, who include Macalady; Daniel S. Jones and Rebecca R. McCauley, graduate students, geosciences; Irene Schaperdoth, research associate; and Dan Bloom, undergraduate honors student in astrobiology, are hoping to obtain more microbial rope samples this summer. They will work with divers to get samples from the deepest and shallowest ends of the ropes in order to find clues about how they grow.

A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light

05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>