Scientists Discover Oil-Eating Bacteria In The Ocean

Oil spills can sometimes happen and it is unfortunate because it can result in the deaths of many sealife in the area. It also takes a long time to cleanup, depending on how big of a spill it is. However, the good news is that nature seems to have a solution to that problem as scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK have discovered.

According to the researchers, they have discovered that at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest natural trench in the ocean, there exists a type of bacteria that has the ability to eat compounds that are similar to those found in oil. While such bacteria has been discovered before, this is the first time that scientists have discovered a concentration of this bacteria in the Mariana Trench.

Researcher Jonathan Todd said, “We studied the samples that were brought back and identified a new group of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria. Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that are made of only hydrogen and carbon atoms, and they are found in many places, including crude oil and natural gas.”

He adds, “So these types of microorganisms essentially eat compounds similar to those in oil and then use it for fuel. Similar microorganisms play a role in degrading oil spills in natural disasters such as BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” It is unclear if the researchers will be able to harness the bacteria’s ability to eat oil and thus help with oil spills, so for now the research will be focused on how the bacteria can feed so deep underwater and discover find out what actually feeds them.

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