Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin’s Marine Science Institute identified about two dozen new types of deep-sea microbes, the majority of which use hydrocarbons such as methane and butane as sources of energy. In the study, published in Nature Communications this week, the scientists concluded that these deep-sea microbes absorb greenhouse gases and oil spills, being useful for reducing ocean warming.
“This shows the deep oceans contain expansive unexplored biodiversity, and microscopic organisms there are capable of degrading oil and other harmful chemicals. Beneath the ocean floor, huge reservoirs of hydrocarbon gases – including methane, propane, butane, and others -exist now, and these microbes prevent greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere,” said Brett Baker, an assistant professor of marine science at the University of Texas at Austin’s Marine Science Institute.
The researchers analyzed the diversity in the microbial communities and deep-sea sediments located in the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California.
Deep-Sea Microbes Absorb Greenhouse Gases And Oil Spills
After they analyzed sediment from 2,000 meters below the surface where the temperature rises to around 200 degrees Celsius due to volcanic activity in the region, the scientists managed to retrieve more than 500 genomes of deep-sea microbes, out of which about two dozens represented new entries in the “tree of life.”
“The tree of life is something that people have been trying to understand since Darwin came up with the concept over 150 years ago, and it’s still this moving target at the moment. Trying to map the tree is really kind of crucial to understanding all aspects of biology. With DNA sequencing and the computer approaches that we use, we’re getting closer, and things are expanding quickly,” added Brett Baker, who, before this study, took part at the mapping of the most comprehensive genomic tree of life.
In conclusion, the researchers said, these deep-sea microbes absorb greenhouse gases and oil spills.
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