How to live on the bottom of the sea immersed in methane and sulfur.
|At the bottom of the Black Sea, in prohibitive conditions, large colonies of bacteria live.
© Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen.
Some bacteria on the bottom of the Black Sea have evolved the way of living (and good) even in terrible conditions; without oxygen, surrounded by clouds of methane and sulfur, in situations very similar to those of the primordial life. From the bottom of the Black Sea, discovered by a German and Russian expedition to a depth ranging from 35 to 800 meters, numerous "chimneys" emerge emitting methane and other gases. Around some of them the researchers, on board of a small submarine, discovered real carpets of bacteria, up to a meter high.
Without oxygen in the water. Scientists have wondered how these bacteria grow so fast. It was thought that anaerobiosis (life without oxygen) meant a slow and stunted life, but these mysterious living beings can quickly transform methane (with a mechanism that is still unknown) into organic matter used for growth. The bacteria will force you to rethink the first moments of the history of life, when it was believed that only the arrival of true breathing (which uses oxygen, like higher animals and plants) had given the push for fast metabolism and therefore to the colonization of the planet.
(News updated September 4, 2002)