In subzero sediments off the island of Spitsbergen, scientists from the German Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology have detected high numbers of thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria that are adapted to live in much warmer habitats.
Experimental incubations at 40 to 60 degrees Celsius revive the Arctic spores, which appear to have been transported from distant hot spots. The discovery could shed new light on one of microbiology's great hypotheses: "Everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects."
The thermophilic spores were discovered during the Max Planck Institute's ongoing research into temperature adaptations of psychrophilic (cold-loving) bacteria in Spitsbergen's permanently cold fjords. Biological activity was measured by incubating sediment samples with labeled substrate at increasing temperatures. The scientists were impressed to see the activity increase dramatically above 40 degrees Celsius. Some dormant spores had apparently come back to life.
The results presented a unique opportunity to study misplaced microbes in a quantitative way. Using metabolic rate measurements, the researchers estimated that a single gram of the Arctic sediment contains up to 100 000 thermophilic spores. This abundance combined with the unusual location is what Max Planck Director Prof. Bo Barker Jørgensen finds exciting: "What is novel here is not the discovery of thermophiles in the Arctic, but demonstrating their high numbers and constant rate of supply." By measuring the sediment accumulation rate, the team calculated an annual deposition of 100 million thermophiles per square meter of the seabed.
So, where are the Arctic thermophiles coming from? Lead author Casey Hubert narrows down the possibilities: "The large and steady flux of anaerobic bacteria indicates that they are coming from a huge anoxic (free of oxygen) source." Transport pathways connecting these hot spots to the cold ocean must also exist. The researchers speculate fluid circulation through spreading ridges where the ocean crust forms and "black smokers" and other hydrothermal vents occur, since bacteria from these systems are genetically similar to the Arctic thermophiles. Another source could be deep hot sub-marine oil reservoirs where gas and oil leak upwards, eventually penetrating the sea floor. "The genetic similarities to bacteria from hot North Sea oil reservoirs are striking," adds Dr. Hubert. The scientists hope further experiments and genetic forensics will reveal the warm source. The spores might provide a unique opportunity to trace seepages from the hot subsurface, possibly pointing towards undiscovered offshore petroleum deposits.
In the meantime, the findings provide fresh insight for understanding marine biodiversity and the "hidden rare biosphere." Obscured by the major bacterial groups in a given environment are countless minorities that do not contribute to element cycling in any detectable way. Microbiologists continue to puzzle over how bacteria spread out to establish the vast microbial diversity that is measured in nature. The thermophilic spores appear to hold important clues about this riddle of biogeography, even as they sit dormant in the cold Arctic sediment, waiting in vain for better times.
This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Max Planck Society, the Austrian Science Fund, and the National Science Foundation (US).Manfred Schlösser
For further information please contact:Casey Hubert, PhD
Department of Microbial Ecology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3300, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences - Microbiology section, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade, Building 1535, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
Center for Geomicrobiology, Department of Biological Sciences, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade, Building 1535, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
Dr. Manfred Schloesser | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences