Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microbiologists can now measure extremely slow life

20.03.2012
New method for measuring slow life in the seabed can provide knowledge about the global carbon cycle
"Mud samples boiled in acid sounds like witchcraft," admits microbiologist Bente Lomstein from the Department of Bioscience when explaining how she and an international group of researchers achieved the outstanding results being published today in the journal Nature.

Bacteria are the only living organisms to produce D-amino acids that deposit a chemical signature in the mud in which they live. Researchers at the Department of Bioscience and the Danish National Research Foundation's Center for Geomicrobiology at Aarhus University have used this knowledge together with American researchers to develop a method to calculate the activity level of microorganisms in the deepest layers of the seabed.

Metabolism in slow motion

Why should we worry about the small organisms that live hidden below the seabed of the world's oceans? Because the slowly growing bacteria are important for the global storage of organic carbon and thereby for the oxygen content of the atmosphere.

"Seventy per cent of our planet is covered by ocean, which means that seventy per cent of the planet is made up of seabed consisting of sediments that store old organic matter. In some places the deposits are more than one hundred metres thick, and ten to thirty per cent of the total living biomass on Earth is actually found in the mud in the seabed. The bacteria in the seabed convert the carbon of organic matter to CO2, and if we add it all up, the metabolism down there plays a crucial role in the global carbon cycle, even if it happens very slowly," says Associate Professor Lomstein.

The researchers' results show that the metabolism of organic carbon takes place at a much slower rate in the deep seabed compared with all other known ecosystems. The mean generation time of bacterial cells down there is correspondingly long: 1000-3000 years. In comparison, many of the bacteria that have been studied in the laboratory or in nature reproduce in a number of hours.

Life in extreme environments

"Extremely high pressure, total darkness and very little nutrition – those are the conditions under which microorganisms live on the seabed. At the bottom of the deep oceans, the pressure reaches several hundred atmospheres," explains Alice Thoft Langerhuus, one of the researchers behind the results.

The researchers also have an idea about how the bacteria can survive under such extreme conditions. They actually succeeded for the first time in demonstrating that there are just as many dormant cells as there are active ones. To a great extent, the bacteria therefore choose to form endospores, which have a solid 'shell' to protect themselves against the harsh environment.

The researchers combined organic biogeochemistry with microbiological studies, and their interdisciplinary model can also provide information about life in other extreme ecosystems.

"Our knowledge can be used in ancient environments with extremely low biological activity, such as permafrost soil. The method is particularly useful for detecting life in the most inactive environments," says Bente Lomstein.

Bente Aa. Lomstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.au.dk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>