Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers find evidence of photosynthesis deep within the ocean

21.06.2005


The discovery of green sulfur bacteria living near hydrothermal vents has major implications for where photosynthesis happens and where life may reside



A team of researchers, including a photosynthesis expert from Arizona State University, has found evidence of photosynthesis taking place deep within the Pacific Ocean. The team found a bacterium that is the first photosynthetic organism that doesn’t live off sunlight but from the dim light coming from hydrothermal vents nearly 2,400 meters (7,875 feet) deep in the ocean.

The discovery of the green sulfur bacteria living near hydrothermal vents off the coast of Mexico has significant implications for the resiliency of life on Earth and possibly on other planets, said Robert Blankenship, a member of the research team and professor and chair of ASU’s chemistry and biochemistry department.


"Life finds a way," Blankenship said of the plucky bacteria that were found in a vent field called 9 North off the coast of Mexico. The bacteria apparently live in the razor thin interface between the extremely hot water (350 C) coming from a flange vent and the very cold water (2 C) surrounding it.

The research team is led by J. Thomas Beatty of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. They published their discovery in "An obligately photosynthetic bacterial anaerobe from a deep sea hydrothermal vent," in the June 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to Blankenship and Beatty, team members are Jörg Overmann and Ann Manske, University of Munich, Germany; Michael Lince, Arizona State University; Andrew Lang, University of British Columbia and University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Cindy Van Dover, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.; Tracey Martinson, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; and F. Gerald Plumley, University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, St. George’s, Bermuda.

The team collected water samples around the hydrothermal vents of 9 North and surrounding areas. From the samples near the vents, they cultivated a microbe that grew in response to illumination near the thermal vents. Using DNA analysis the team classified the microbe as a member of the green sulfur bacteria family, which use light and sulfur to obtain energy. The fact that the organism is obligate means it solely relies on photosynthesis to live.

"This is startling in the sense that you do not expect to find photosynthesis in a region of the world that is so completely dark," Blankenship said.

Sunlight can penetrate 100 to 200 meters into the ocean, slowly dimming as you go deeper. Because these organisms live nearly 2,400 meter below the surface, the team believes they must be getting light from the hydrothermal vent near where they were found.

"These organisms are the champions of low light photosynthesis," Blankenship said. "These guys have the most elaborate and sophisticated antenna system, which we have studied for a long time in organisms that are relatives of the one discovered near the vents."

Blankenship explained that the antenna system of the bacteria utilizes a chlorosome complex, which basically acts like a microscopic satellite dish, to efficiently collect any light it can and transfer it to the organism’s reaction center. The reaction center is where the actual photosynthesis takes place.

Blankenship says this discovery is important on two different levels. One is what it means to life on Earth, the other is what it means about where to look for life forms on other planets.

"This shows that photosynthesis is something that is not limited only to the very surface of our planet," he said. "It lets you consider other places where you might find photosynthesis on Earth as well as on other planets."

For example, Europa, a planet-sized satellite of Jupiter, has long been thought to have some of the necessary attributes to harbor life. However, it is far too distant from the Sun for traditional forms of photosynthesis.

It is believed that under the ice covered surface of Europa are liquid oceans and at the bottom of those oceans it is speculated there might be very hot thermal vents and potential for spawning photosynthetic organisms.

"This find shows us that there is this ability of organisms to survive and live in areas that we wouldn’t have imagined possible, and that life is much stronger than what we realized," Blankenship said. "This is just one example of life in extreme environments."

Skip Derra | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>