Research

At the bottom of the Mariana Trench, oil-fed bacteria were found.

At the deepest point of the oceans,The Mariana Trench, located in the western part of the Pacific Ocean and almost 11,000 meters below the surface (for comparison, the height of Mount Everest is 8,848 meters), scientists have discovered unique bacteria that feed on oil. The study, whose results were published in the journal Microbiome, was conducted by an international team led by scientists from the University of East Anglia. Together with their colleagues from China and Russia, scientists conducted the most complete analysis of microbial populations in the deepest place of the depression.

The research team went down tocollect samples of the microbial population in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench - approximately 11,000 meters under water. Having returned to the laboratory, scientists reconstructed the habitat conditions of these bacteria and found out that some of these groups of microorganisms are capable of decomposing hydrocarbons.

"Hydrocarbons are organic compounds,which consist only of hydrogen and carbon atoms, and can be found in many elements, including crude oil and natural gas. Thus, these types of microorganisms, in fact, feed on compounds similar to those found in oil, and then use them as fuel. Such microorganisms played a role in eliminating oil spills resulting from natural disasters, such as the BP oil spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, ”comments one of the authors of the new study, Jonathan Todd of the School of Biological Sciences of the University of East Anglia.

Detected hydrocarbon degrading bacteria

Scientists report that the proportion of bacteria that decomposehydrocarbons, in the trough the highest on Earth. But where do bacteria get hydrocarbons for nutrition? To solve this mystery, scientists took water samples from a depth of 2000, 4000 and 6000 meters. It was found that hydrocarbons are present in all samples of water taken.

“We have discovered that hydrocarbons exist onat a depth of 6,000 meters below the surface of the ocean and possibly even deeper. Most of them are probably related to pollution of the ocean surface, ”explains Nikolai Pedenchuk from the School of Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia.

"To our surprise, we also identifiedbiologically produced hydrocarbons in ocean sediments at the bottom of the depression. This suggests that a unique microbial population produces hydrocarbons in the same environment, ”the researcher added.

According to scientists, these hydrocarbons are similar tocompounds that make up diesel fuel. They were found in algae on the surface of the ocean, but never met in microbes at great depths.

According to researchers, hydrocarbons help microbes survive the strongest pressure of 1091 kg / cm2, which is present at the bottom of the Martian depression.

"In addition, they may also act asfood source for other microbes that may be capable of consuming any contaminating hydrocarbons that go to the bottom of the ocean. But more research is needed to fully understand this unique environment, ”adds David Lee-Smith, another study author from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

Scientists plan to continue to investigate the microbial life at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, as well as try to find out the volumes of hydrocarbons that enter its environment due to human activity.

“So far we know more about Mars than about the deepest part of the World Ocean,” Professor Xiao-Hua Zhang from the University of the Ocean in China summed up.

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