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 From Receptor Structure to New Osteoporosis Drugs
20.11.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Mutation that causes autism and intellectual disability makes brain less flexible
20.11.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Mutation that causes autism and intellectual disability makes brain less flexible

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

The sweet side of reproductive biology

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Fading stripes in Southeast Asia: First insight into the ecology of an elusive and threatened rabbit

20.11.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>