Researchers from the University of Essex have discovered a deep-sea oasis with new microbial life forms that could have significant implications for biotechnology. The findings have been published this week in the journal Nature.
The researchers have found that microbial activity, biomass and diversity are greatly increased at the interface between seawater and a salt-saturated brine lake, 3.3 kilometres below the surface of the Mediterranean. These life forms could have significant biotechnological applications such as the development of drugs, the use of enzymes in the manufacture of chemicals and the use of metabolites in the food industry.
The Essex team have been working with researchers from across Europe on the BIODEEP (Biotechnologies from the Deep) project. In order to investigate the depths of the Mediterranean, they employed high-precision sampling equipment including a 4,000m length of cable containing an optical fibre string for a remote-controlled camera.
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