Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hearty bacteria help make case for life in the extreme

Date:
January 20, 2012
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
The bottom of a glacier is not the most hospitable place on Earth, but at least two types of bacteria happily live there, according to researchers.

The bottom of a glacier is not the most hospitable place on Earth, but at least two types of bacteria happily live there, according to researchers.

Related Articles


The bacteria -- Chryseobacterium and Paenisporosarcina -- showed signs of respiration in ice made in the laboratory that was designed to simulate as closely as possible the temperatures and nutrient content found at the bottom of Arctic and Antarctic glaciers, said Corien Bakermans, assistant professor of microbiology, Penn State Altoona. She said that carbon dioxide levels in the laboratory-made ice containing the bacteria, which were collected from glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, indicated that respiration was occurring at temperatures ranging from negative 27 to positive 24 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bakermans, who worked with Mark Skidmore, associate professor of geology, Montana State University, determined the level of respiration by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the laboratory-made ice.

While humans obtain energy from sugar, the bacteria in this experiment used acetate, a form of vinegar. Like human respiration, the microbes take in the molecules, extract energy from them and breathe out carbon dioxide as a waste product.

Bakermans said the study may have implications for the search for life on other planets, like Mars, because some places on Mars are in the same temperature range as the temperature levels recorded during the experiment.

"Although there are a lot of other factors involved for life to take hold on other planets," Bakermans said, "we can still say that if microbes on Earth can do this, then there's the potential, at least, that microbes can do this on Mars."

Glaciers and ice sheets represent large ecosystems that cover more than 10 percent of Earth and contain approximately 78 percent of the world's fresh water.

The researchers, who reported their findings in a recent issue of Environmental Microbiology Reports, said that respiration was reported at all temperatures examined.

The respiration rate of the microbes increased as the temperature rose. While the respiration rates of the bacteria are slow compared to the human respiration, the microbes could maintain cell structure and viability throughout the observed temperature range.

The researchers also performed a staining test to measure cell viability. When cells are alive or dead, they leave a chemical footprint of those states. By applying stains to the bacteria in the laboratory-made ice, the researchers can find those chemicals and determine if the cells are alive and healthy.

Bacteria seem to grow best in cracks and crevices within the ice, Bakermans said. The cracks in the ice create channels that allow water and nutrients to circulate.

"It's hard for nutrients to be exchanged in the ice," Bakermans said. "But these channels appear to give the microbes access to nutrients."

The bottom of glaciers may be more hospitable for the microbes than other parts of the glacier because the areas draw warmth and nutrients from the earth, Bakermans said.

The National Science Foundation supported this study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Corien Bakermans, Mark Skidmore. Microbial respiration in ice at subzero temperatures (−4C to −33C). Environmental Microbiology Reports, 2011; 3 (6): 774 DOI: 10.1111/j.1758-2229.2011.00298.x

Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Hearty bacteria help make case for life in the extreme." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120119143338.htm>.
Penn State. (2012, January 20). Hearty bacteria help make case for life in the extreme. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120119143338.htm
Penn State. "Hearty bacteria help make case for life in the extreme." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120119143338.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins