Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Water 'microhabitats' in oil show potential for extraterrestrial life, oil cleanup: Extremophilic ecosystems writ small

Date:
August 7, 2014
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
An international team of researchers has found extremely small habitats that increase the potential for life on other planets while offering a way to clean up oil spills on our own. Looking at samples from the world's largest natural asphalt lake, they found active microbes in droplets as small as a microliter, which is about 1/50th of a drop of water.

Water drop (stock image).
Credit: Gianni / Fotolia

An international team of researchers has found extremely small habitats that increase the potential for life on other planets while offering a way to clean up oil spills on our own.

Related Articles


Looking at samples from the world's largest natural asphalt lake, they found active microbes in droplets as small as a microliter, which is about 1/50th of a drop of water.

"We saw a huge diversity of bacteria and archaea," said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor in Washington State University's School of the Environment and the only U.S. researcher on the team. "That's why we speak of an 'ecosystem,' because we have so much diversity in the water droplets."

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers report they also found the microbes were actively degrading oil in the asphalt, suggesting a similar phenomenon could be used to clean up oil spills.

"For me, the cool thing is I got into it from an astrobiology viewpoint, as an analog to Saturn's moon, Titan, where we have hydrocarbon lakes on the surface," said Schulze-Makuch. "But this shows astrobiology has also great environmental applications, because of the biodegradation of oil compounds."

Schulze-Makuch and his colleagues in 2011 found that the 100-acre Pitch Lake, on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, was teeming with microbial life, which is also thought to increase the likelihood of life on Titan.

The new paper adds a new, microscopic level of detail to how life can exist in such a harsh environment.

"We discovered that there are additional habitats where we have not looked at where life can occur and thrive," said Schulze-Makuch.

Analyzing the droplets' isotopic signatures and salt content, the researchers determined that they were not coming from rain or groundwater, but ancient sea water or a brine deep underground.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. R. U. Meckenstock, F. von Netzer, C. Stumpp, T. Lueders, A. M. Himmelberg, N. Hertkorn, P. Schmitt-Kopplin, M. Harir, R. Hosein, S. Haque, D. Schulze-Makuch. Water droplets in oil are microhabitats for microbial life. Science, 2014; 345 (6197): 673 DOI: 10.1126/science.1252215

Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "Water 'microhabitats' in oil show potential for extraterrestrial life, oil cleanup: Extremophilic ecosystems writ small." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140807145738.htm>.
Washington State University. (2014, August 7). Water 'microhabitats' in oil show potential for extraterrestrial life, oil cleanup: Extremophilic ecosystems writ small. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140807145738.htm
Washington State University. "Water 'microhabitats' in oil show potential for extraterrestrial life, oil cleanup: Extremophilic ecosystems writ small." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140807145738.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bridge Collapses Due to Flooding in Bolivia

Bridge Collapses Due to Flooding in Bolivia

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 28, 2015) Heavy rain and flooding sweep through parts of Bolivia causing damage and leaves more than 2,000 people homeless. Sophia Soo reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

AFP (Feb. 27, 2015) More than 200 people have been killed in a series of avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall in Afghanistan. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) The presidents of France and the Philippines issue a joint appeal for a binding agreement on climate change. Katie Sargent reports. Video provided by Reuters
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