Bacteria Can Survive In Oxygen-Free Marine Environments

Posted: Dec 19 2016, 10:13am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Bacteria Can Survive in Oxygen-Free Marine Environments
MIT oceanographers have found that some small marine organisms — mostly bacteria — have a surprisingly low limit to the amount of oxygen they need to breathe. Image Credit: MIT News
  • New study sets oxygen-breathing limit for ocean’s hardiest organisms

New research shows a certain oxygen breathing limit for certain ocean organisms. Certain bacteria can survive deep under the sea where there is no oxygen.

There are several oxygen minimum zones in the oceans worldwide. Most species don’t survive in low oxygen except some hardiest of organisms. Recently, some MIT oceanographers have discovered certain bacteria who can survive even in low oxygen areas.

A study was published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography that shows survival of ocean bacteria where oxygen level is as low as 1 Nano molar per liter.

This is 10,000 times lower level than the level at which small fish can survive. The scientists discovered that, below this level the microbes either die, or they start breathing nitrogen rather than oxygen.

Change in climate also affects oxygen in ocean, so oxygen minimum zones are increasing worldwide. The MIT team said that, after discovering that bacteria can survive in low oxygen can also help scientists discover the effect of future deoxygenating. This will affect the nutrient balance of the ocean and ecosystem depending on this nutrition balance.

A question arises, does this change in oxygen level will also affect fish habitat on the surface of ocean?, said Emily Zakem, the paper’s lead author and a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).

However, such predictions need certain basis; saidZakem’s co-author is EAPS Associate Professor Mick Follows.

The Oxygen minimum zones are also called shadow zones which are located 200 to 1000 meters below the ocean. But, above this zone a huge amount of fish can survive.

The team developed a model to see the survival of certain bacteria in the ocean in low oxygen zones. The researchers discovered that microbes use nitrogen in the absence of oxygen, and that’s how they survive. The researchers discovered a certain level where the microbes could survive.

The scientists are trying to find out how decreased oxygen zones would affect the bacteria in future. The study was also supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Simons Foundation, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

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