A new breed of oil eating microbes is thriving around the Deep Water Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico. Seems these blessed little critters are reproducing and loving the oil filled seas they are living in.
Microbes from the sea bed vent community are enjoying eating oil droplets and happily reproducing faster then others of their kind. Temperatures are quite toasty in their zone hover around 5 degrees Celsius, the pressure is enormous, and there is normally little carbon present. They are even living on reduced oxygen so the waters of the Gulf are not turning into a dead zone.
“Two research ships were sent to collect data to determine the physical, chemical and microbiological properties of the Deepwater oil plume. The oil escaping from the damaged wellhead represented an enormous carbon and toxins being put into the water column ecosystem.
The lead scientist was Dr. Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist with Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and principal investigator with the Energy Biosciences Institute, who has studied numerous oil-spill sites in the past, is the leader of the Ecology Department and Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division. He conducted this research under an existing grant he holds with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to study microbial enhanced hydrocarbon recovery. EBI is a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley and including Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.
After careful analysis of more than 200 samples collected from 17 deepwater sites between May 25 and June 2, 2010. Sample analysis was boosted by the use of the latest edition of the award-winning Berkeley Lab PhyloChip is a unique credit card-sized DNA-based microarray that can be used to quickly, accurately and comprehensively detect the presence of up to 50,000 different species of bacteria and archaea in a single sample from any environmental source, without the need of culturing. Use of the Phylochip, enabled Hazen and his colleagues to determine that the dominant microbe in the oil plume is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales family, particularly Oleispirea antarctica and Oceaniserpentilla haliotis.
These oil-degrading microbial populations and their associated microbial communities play a significant role in controlling the ultimate fates and consequences of deep-sea oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mother Nature Rules!!
Excerpts and Image 1, courtesy of http://bit.ly/9gNAUg
Image 2. http://bit.ly/bmYAaP