Deep-sea bacteria redefine life in the slow lane

By Ed Yong | May 17, 2012 2:05 pm

Your laziest days are positively frenetic compared to the lifestyle of some deep-sea bacteria, buried in the sediments of the Pacific Ocean. These microbes are pushing a slow-going lifestyle to an extreme. They subsist on vanishingly low levels of oxygen, in sediments that have not received any new food sources since the time of the dinosaurs. And yes, they survive.

Not only that, but these microbes could make up 90 per cent of those on the planet. “We’re looking at the most common forms of life on this planet, and we know almost nothing about them,” said Hans Røy, who has been studying them for many years. Now, Røy has finally measured just how slow their metabolism really is.

I’ve written about this discovery for The Scientist, so head over there for the full story.

Image by Shelly Carpenter, NOAA Ocean Explorer


Comments (4)

  1. BuzzDengue

    Where is Richard Fleischer when you need him???

  2. DMPalmer

    According to the article, the bacteria use only an attomole of oxygen per day, which is less than a molecule per second.

    If your own cells were that frugal, then a lungful of oxygen would last you a decade. (Or a year if you want to include all your gut bacteria as well.)

  3. Thanks DMPalmer. That’s excellent. I was trying to find a way of contextualising the figure, but that *really* helps.

  4. emkay

    a lungful of air is actually quite a lot of air! ..the average adult US male has a transpirational surface area (all of the internal surface area of the alveolar sacs) that is about the same size (surface area) as an average tennis court…


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