Bacteria typically get associated with icky germs, but they are a whole different thing.
Bacteria help us digest food, feed precious nitrogen to the trees around us, play a crucial role in Earth’s ecosystems, all that while also being capable of surviving extreme conditions.
Some recently discovered robust bacteria that are said to be able to live off air alone!
Some years ago, scientists discovered bacteria in Antarctic soils that breathe and eat air!
A recent study revealed that those microbes might be present in other regions too.
Genetic analysis of soils from three icy regions of Earth led to that discovery. The areas in the talk are the Antarctic, Arctic, and Tibetan Plateau.
Those bacteria appear to inhabit low nutrient environments, which means that they might be a key element in fuelling the limited life forms around them.
Belinda Ferrari, a microbiologist from the University of New South Wales in Australia, stated:
“There are whole ecosystems probably relying on this novel microbial carbon fixation process where microbes use the energy obtained from breathing in atmospheric hydrogen gas to turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into carbon – to grow.”
The Peculiar Bacteria
The process is known as atmospheric chemosynthesis.
The bacteria oxidize atmospheric hydrogen to drive a chain of reactions that convert atmospheric carbon into living tissues, fueling other life forms that consume it.
“We think this process occurs simultaneously alongside photosynthesis when conditions change, such as during the polar winter when there is no light,” Ferrari stated.
Scientists are working to determine whether the phenomenon occurs globally or not.
Still, the discovery is shocking! Can you imagine being able to feed off of air alone?