Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The struggle for life in the Dead Sea sediments: Necrophagy as a survival mechanism

26.03.2019

New study published in Geology

The Dead Sea is not completely dead. The most saline lake on Earth (more than 10 times saltier than sea water) is a harsh environment where only salt-loving microbes from the Archaea domain, known as extreme halophiles, are able to survive. Geologists are interested in the evolution of this lake and have been investigating its subsurface to reconstruct its biological and geological history.


Aerial photograph of the Dead Sea western shore. Parallel paleo shorelines show the intense water level drop (currently about 1 m per year). Salt (halite) actively precipitating from the water column gives this light blue color to the lake.

Photography courtesy of the International Continental scientific Drilling Program.

The salty sediments of the Dead Sea are still full of mysteries, in particular regarding the life forms harbored there, commonly called the deep subsurface biosphere.

There is a vast microbial biomass below Earth's surface, which survives without oxygen, light, or fresh food delivery. This subsurface biosphere has been the subject of numerous scientific studies. Its importance in global biogeochemical cycles is largely acknowledged, and constant efforts are being carried out to estimate the limits of life development in these extreme environments, as they present an immense potential for medical and biotechnology research.

Given its exceptional salinity, the Dead Sea subsurface is an environment where life is pushed to its limits and, as such, constitutes a prime choice to investigate how life forms can adapt and thrive.

The new study for Geology by Camille Thomas and colleagues describes a novel strategy used by some microorganisms to survive in the hypersaline, carbon-, and water-deprived environment of the Dead Sea subsurface.

By looking at molecular fossils preserved in deep sediments, the team of Swiss and French scientists found unique molecular compounds, known as storage lipids, in the most saline sedimentary layers of the lake. The chemical structure of these lipid compounds indicates that remains from extreme halophilic archaea were recycled by other microbial populations, likely from the bacteria domain, previously thought to be unadapted to such a harsh locale. This necrophagic behavior allowed them to build carbon stocks in this food-deprived environment. It also provided water to mitigate the extreme salinity of the Dead Sea subsurface.

This all constitutes an unprecedented strategy for survival in the deep biosphere. These findings widen the understanding of adaptations exhibited by microorganisms to live in extreme environments, a research domain scientists are only beginning to understand.

###

FEATURED ARTICLE

Recycling of archaeal biomass as a new strategy for extreme life in Dead Sea deep sediments

Camille Thomas (camille.thomas@unige.ch), Vincent Grossi, Ingrid Antheaume, and Daniel Ariztegui. URL: https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article/569566/Recycling-of-archaeal-biomass-as-a-new-strategy.

GEOLOGY articles are online at http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/content/early/recent. Representatives of the media may obtain complimentary articles by contacting Kea Giles at the e-mail address above. Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GEOLOGY in articles published. Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service, gsaservice@geosociety.org.

http://www.geosociety.org

Kea Giles | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Low sea-ice cover in the Arctic
13.09.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht A precise chemical fingerprint of the Amazon
12.09.2019 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

Im Focus: Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Beyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for...

Im Focus: Physicists from Stuttgart prove the existence of a supersolid state of matte

A supersolid is a state of matter that can be described in simplified terms as being solid and liquid at the same time. In recent years, extensive efforts have been devoted to the detection of this exotic quantum matter. A research team led by Tilman Pfau and Tim Langen at the 5th Institute of Physics of the University of Stuttgart has succeeded in proving experimentally that the long-sought supersolid state of matter exists. The researchers report their results in Nature magazine.

In our everyday lives, we are familiar with matter existing in three different states: solid, liquid, or gas. However, if matter is cooled down to extremely...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Too much of a good thing: overactive immune cells trigger inflammation

16.09.2019 | Life Sciences

Scientists create a nanomaterial that is both twisted and untwisted at the same time

16.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Researchers have identified areas of the retina that change in mild Alzheimer's disease

16.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>