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Mysteries of the deep sea: Gigantic cells play host to multicellular organisms

xenophyophores/Lisa Levin, David Checkley

From “Researchers Identify Mysterious Life Forms in the Extreme Deep Sea” (ScienceDaily, Oct. 24, 2011), we learn:

The researchers spotted the life forms at depths up to 10,641 meters (6.6 miles) within the Sirena Deep of the Mariana Trench. The previous depth record for xenophyophores was approximately 7,500 meters (4.7 miles) in the New Hebrides Trench, although sightings in the deepest portion of the Mariana Trench have been reported. Scientists say xenophyophores are the largest individual cells in existence. Recent studies indicate that by trapping particles from the water, xenophyophores can concentrate high levels of lead, uranium and mercury and are thus likely highly resistant to large doses of heavy metals. They also are well suited to a life of darkness, low temperature and high pressure in the deep sea.

“The research of Scripps Professor Lisa Levin (deep-sea biologist) has demonstrated that these organisms play host to diverse multicellular organisms,” said Doug Bartlett, the Scripps marine microbiologist who organized the Mariana Trench expedition. “Thus the identification of these gigantic cells in one of the deepest marine environments on the planet opens up a whole new habitat for further study of biodiversity, biotechnological potential and extreme environment adaptation.”

Like the oceanographer said at Science North in 2009: We don’t know what’s in most of the ocean. No need to expect the same old.

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2 Responses to Mysteries of the deep sea: Gigantic cells play host to multicellular organisms

  1. This is interesting:

    Researchers Identify Mysterious Life Forms in the Extreme Deep Sea
    Excerpt: Xenophyophores are noteworthy for their size, with individual cells often exceeding 10 centimeters (4 inches), their extreme abundance on the seafloor and their role as hosts for a variety of organisms.,,, The researchers spotted the life forms at depths up to 10,641 meters (6.6 miles) within the Sirena Deep of the Mariana Trench.,,, Scientists say xenophyophores are the largest individual cells in existence. Recent studies indicate that by trapping particles from the water, xenophyophores can concentrate high levels of lead, uranium and mercury,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....165037.htm

    notes;

    Interestingly, while the photo-synthetic bacteria were reducing greenhouse gases and producing oxygen, and metal, and minerals, which would all be of benefit to modern man, ‘sulfate-reducing’ bacteria were also producing their own natural resources which would be very useful to modern man. Sulfate-reducing bacteria helped prepare the earth for advanced life by detoxifying the primeval earth and oceans of poisonous levels of heavy metals while depositing them as relatively inert metal ores. Metal ores which are very useful for modern man, as well as fairly easy for man to extract today (mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper to name a few). To this day, sulfate-reducing bacteria maintain an essential minimal level of these heavy metals in the ecosystem which are high enough so as to be available to the biological systems of the higher life forms that need them yet low enough so as not to be poisonous to those very same higher life forms.

    Bacterial Heavy Metal Detoxification and Resistance Systems:
    Excerpt: Bacterial plasmids contain genetic determinants for resistance systems for Hg2+ (and organomercurials), Cd2+, AsO2, AsO43-, CrO4 2-, TeO3 2-, Cu2+, Ag+, Co2+, Pb2+, and other metals of environmental concern.,, Recombinant DNA analysis has been applied to mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper resistance systems.
    http://www.int-res.com/article.....26p203.pdf

    The role of bacteria in hydrogeochemistry, metal cycling and ore deposit formation:
    Textures of sulfide minerals formed by SRB (sulfate-reducing bacteria) during bioremediation (most notably pyrite and sphalerite) have textures reminiscent of those in certain sediment-hosted ores, supporting the concept that SRB may have been directly involved in forming ore minerals.
    http://www.goldschmidt2009.org...../A1161.pdf

    Man has only recently caught on to harnessing the ancient detoxification ability of bacteria to cleanup his accidental toxic spills, as well as his toxic waste, from industry:

    What is Bioremediation? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSpjRPWYJPg

    Metal-mining bacteria are green chemists – Sept. 2010
    Excerpt: Microbes could soon be used to convert metallic wastes into high-value catalysts for generating clean energy, say scientists writing in the September issue of Microbiology.
    http://www.physorg.com/news202618665.html

    As a side note to this, recently bacteria surprised scientists by their ability to quickly detoxify the millions of barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico:

    Mighty oil-eating microbes help clean up the Gulf – July 2010
    Excerpt: Where is all the oil? Nearly two weeks after BP finally capped the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, the oil slicks that once spread across thousands of miles of the Gulf of Mexico have largely disappeared. Nor has much oil washed up on the sandy beaches and marshes along the Louisiana coast.,,, The lesson from past spills is that the lion’s share of the cleanup work is done by nature in the form of oil-eating bacteria and fungi. (Thank God)
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews_.....xcl_sc3270

    Deepwater Oil Plume in Gulf Degraded by Microbes, Study Shows
    Excerpt: An intensive study by scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) found that microbial activity degrades oil much faster than anticipated. This degradation appears to take place without a significant level of oxygen depletion.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....132349.htm

    Methane Gas Concentrations in Gulf of Mexico Quickly Returned to Near-Normal Levels, Surprising Researchers – January 2011
    Excerpt: Calling the results “extremely surprising”, researchers report that methane gas concentrations in the Gulf of Mexico have returned to near normal levels only months after a massive release occurred following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....145436.htm

    Microbes Consumed Oil in Gulf Slick at Unexpected Rates, Study Finds – August 2011
    Excerpt: “Our study shows that the dynamic microbial community of the Gulf of Mexico supported remarkable rates of oil respiration, despite a dearth of dissolved nutrients,” the researchers said. Edwards added that the results suggest “that microbes had the metabolic potential to break down a large portion of hydrocarbons and keep up with the flow rate from the wellhead.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111752.htm

  2. further note:

    Clearly many, if not all, of these metal ores and minerals laid down by these sulfate-reducing bacteria, as well as laid down by the biogeochemistry of more complex life, as well as laid down by finely-tuned geological conditions throughout the early history of the earth, have many unique properties which are crucial for technologically advanced life, and are thus indispensable to man’s rise above the stone age to the advanced ‘space-age’ technology of modern civilization.

    Metallurgy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallurgy

    Minerals and Their Uses
    http://www.scienceviews.com/geology/minerals.html

    Mineral Uses In Industry
    http://www.peterharben.com/ind.....s_uses.htm

    Inventions: Elements and Compounds – video
    http://videos.howstuffworks.co.....-video.htm

    Bombardment Makes Civilization Possible
    What is the common thread among the following items: pacemakers, spark plugs, fountain pens and compass bearings? Give up? All of them currently use (or used in early versions) the two densest elements, osmium and iridium. These two elements play important roles in technological advancements. However, if certain special events hadn’t occurred early in Earth’s history, no osmium or iridium would exist near the planet’s surface.
    http://www.reasons.org/Bombard.....onPossible

    It is also interesting to note just how finely tuned the detoxification of ‘poisonous’ metals and elements is:

    Engineering and Science Magazine – Caltech – March 2010
    Excerpt: “Without these microbes, the planet would run out of biologically available nitrogen in less than a month,” Realizations like this are stimulating a flourishing field of “geobiology” – the study of relationships between life and the earth. One member of the Caltech team commented, “If all bacteria and archaea just stopped functioning, life on Earth would come to an abrupt halt.” Microbes are key players in earth’s nutrient cycles. Dr. Orphan added, “…every fifth breath you take, thank a microbe.”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100316a

    Planet’s Nitrogen Cycle Overturned – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: “Ammonia is a waste product that can be toxic to animals.,,, archaea can scavenge nitrogen-containing ammonia in the most barren environments of the deep sea, solving a long-running mystery of how the microorganisms can survive in that environment. Archaea therefore not only play a role, but are central to the planetary nitrogen cycles on which all life depends.,,,the organism can survive on a mere whiff of ammonia – 10 nanomolar concentration, equivalent to a teaspoon of ammonia salt in 10 million gallons of water.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....132656.htm

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