Thriving In Extreme Conditions

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A mineral chimney and microbe mats on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Mineral chimneys are associated with sea vents that release oil and gas. The microbe mats are lying on sediments next to the mineral chimney. Credit: Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University

…takes more than a Red Bull.  You got to have the right metabolic pathways.  NSF highlights the work of Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia who studies how microbes survive and thrive in a deep, dark, noxious, oxygen-depleted, super-salty ecosystems that may be like the primordial ooze that life originated from.  This work culminated in a paper a few weeks back in Nature Geoscience.  Joye’s team shows that an active mud volcano and quite brine pool support not only different types of microbes but different types of metabolism.  Both of these contrast to the microbes of the surrounding water and sediment.  Joye, the lead on the paper, hypothesizes this reflect differences in dissolved organic matter from below the sediment surface and the contrasting flow rates in fluids between the two sites.


The NSF Site has video of Samantha Joye discussing these discoveries.


Joye, S., Samarkin, V., Orcutt, B., MacDonald, I., Hinrichs, K., Elvert, M., Teske, A., Lloyd, K., Lever, M., Montoya, J., & Meile, C. (2009). Metabolic variability in seafloor brines revealed by carbon and sulphur dynamics Nature Geoscience DOI: 10.1038/ngeo475

Dr. M (1618 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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