Deep Sea Bacteria have Thrived for Millions of Years

Image of the ocean floor

Featured Image courtesy Yannis Papanastasopoulos, Unsplash.

Paper: Atribacteria reproducing over millions of years in the Atlantic abyssal subseafloor

Authors: Aurèle Vuillemin, Sergio Vargas, Ömer K. Coskun, Robert Pockalny, Richard W. Murray, David C. Smith, Steven D’Hondt, William D. Orsi

If you, like me, imagine the seafloor to be inhabited by strange, mysterious creatures like vampire squids and goblin sharks, think again: bacteria continue to surprise us with their resilience in the oddest of environments. Scientists have detected microbes living in the mud and rocks on the seafloor, but we don’t know much about them. Are they alive? How do they get energy in such a nutrient-poor environment? Given the inhospitable conditions in the sub-seafloor, scientists have thought that most of these microbes were close to the energy limit for life, which is an estimate of the minimum amount of energy required to sustain life as we know it. For this reason, we’ve assumed that subseafloor microbes die faster than they grow because there simply isn’t enough energy in the deep sea to sustain life long-term. 

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Do Microbes Release Fluorine from Rocks?

Image of soil microcosm

Featured Image used with permission of photographer (Cassi Wattenburger)

Paper: Indigenous microbes induced fluoride release from aquifer sediments

Authors: Xubo Gao, Wenting Luo, Xuesong Luo, Chengcheng Li, Xin Zhang, Yanxin Wang

My science textbook taught me that fluorine (F) was really important for dental health, and I’ve since learned that both excessive and insufficient amounts of fluoride in groundwater can cause health issues. While the chemistry behind the release of fluoride ions from rocks or sediments into groundwater is well understood, the microbiology of this process is not. Specifically, scientists have been wondering whether microbes could speed up the release of F from sediments into groundwater. 

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Whose Faces do we See in Geology Textbooks?

Student standing on textbooks in library

Author’s Note: The last few weeks have left us grappling with the profound effects of systemic racism, as seen in the wake of the recent protests and violence all over the USA and the world, as well as the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on Black communities. This week’s post is dedicated to exploring the impact of another effect of systemic racism: lack of representation in educational spaces, made apparent in geology textbooks. 

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Ancient microbes engineered sedimentary deposits

Cambrian Stromatolites from New York State

Featured image: Cambrian stromatolites from New York State. Image attribution: James St. John / CC BY 2.0; Wikimedia Commons

Paper: Evidence for microbes in early Neoproterozoic stromatolites

Authors: Zhongwu Lan, Shujing Zhang, Maurice Tucker, Zhensheng Li, Zhuoya Zhao

Stromatolites are ancient, layered deposits of sediments that are characterized by thin, alternating light and dark bands. While microbial fossils have been found in many stromatolites, the biological origin of these structures has been debated. Continue reading “Ancient microbes engineered sedimentary deposits”