Microbiology

Finding Highly Active Bacterial Colonies in the Deepest Ocean Trenches the Challenger Deep



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"Finding Highly Active Bacterial Colonies in the Deepest Ocean Trenches the Challenger Deep"
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Scientists studying microbes have always been marveled by the fact that bacteria has the ability to adapt to even the harshest of environments both on land as well as under water. They always wondered what it would be like in the deepest trenches in the ocean floor when it comes to bacterial presence and bacterial activity. To their amazement, not only they have discovered the presence of huge number of bacterial colonies in the deepest trenches in the ocean known to mankind, but also have learnt that the colonies present in these sites are far more active than some of the other colonies studied by the scientists in the less deeper floors of the ocean.

The study

According to The study by a team of scientists who have studied the deepest spot known to the humankind in the Mariana trench, bacteria seems to thrive and form highly active colonies to the surprise of everyone involved in the study. The spot that they have chosen is located in the central west pacific ocean and is about 36,000 feet or 11,000 meters deep. It is also known as the ‘Challenger Deep’ and not many scientists had the chance of exploring the dirt obtained from its surface before.

Importance of finding thriving bacterial colonies in Challenger Deep

The importance of finding highly active bacterial colonies at the Challenger Deep  can be understood when considering that ocean depths such as these rely on the nutrition that trickles down from the ocean above. However, the amount of nutrition that reaches the bottom of the sea remains to be very low as some of the sediment degrades on its way to the bottom as a result of bacterial activity. Thus, some scientists predict only about 1 to 2% of the organic matter produced in the ocean surface would reach the sea floor at average depths of around 3,700 meters while the amount reaching the depths such as seen in the Challenger Deep can be even smaller.

Theories for finding active bacterial colonies in Challenger Deep

However, even with such harsh conditions and scarce resources, the bacteria seems to thrive in the mud laden ocean floor of the Challenger Deep rather than some of the other ocean floors at lesser depths. Scientists have formulated several theories as to how such a phenomenon might have taken place. One theory states that being a large ‘hole’ in the ocean floor, the Challenger Deep has the ability to attract more sediment from the ocean surface and therefore provide enough nutrition to its bacterial colonies and other creatures. Another theory holds that being a location where tectonic plates overlap each other and therefore subjected to frequent earthquakes, the chances of mudslides bringing nutritional value to the Challenger Deep is high. Thus, in combination, these mechanisms can provide the Challenger Deep with enough or probably more nutrition and oxygen in order to maintain highly active bacterial colonies.

Future research

The finding of such an active and thriving bacterial colony is not the end of the story and the same group of scientists is now embarking on further studies related to these bacteria in order to harness their secrets for living in such harsh conditions. Thus, the future scientific research around these organisms may aim at identifying their genetic structure, chemical mechanisms as well as the differences that are existing between these groups of bacteria and the bacterial that are living in less harsh ocean floor depths.


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More about this author: Menaka Ratnayake

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/17/17348487-microbes-thrive-in-deepest-spot-on-earth?lite
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://channel.nationalgeographic.com/videos/the-challenger-deep/