(ORDO NEWS) — Recently discovered bacteria are able to absorb metallic manganese and use it as an energy source.
Jared Leadbetter, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology, discovered bacteria by chance after he left glass dishes in water after experimenting with manganese. The next day, according to a university press release , he discovered that the instruments were covered in a strange film – the waste left after the bacteria enjoyed the snack.
There are bacteria consuming manganese, but these are the first ones that can chemically synthesize it into useful fuel and leave behind manganese oxides. Such bacteria have long been in demand, but no one has ever discovered them before.
Leadbetter suggests that a find published Wednesday in Nature magazine solves a puzzle with water pipes in the area.
“There is a range of environmental engineering literature on drinking water distribution systems clogged with manganese oxides,” Leadbetter said in a press release. “But how and for what reason such material arose was a mystery. Obviously, many scientists believe that bacteria that use manganese for energy can be responsible, but there is still no evidence to support this idea.”
The discovery may also finally explain the specific manganese spheres that are scattered across the ocean floor – it is possible that large colonies of elusive bacteria or something like that could gradually create them.
“This underscores the need for a better study of marine manganese nodules before they are destroyed by mining,” said Caltech researcher Hang Yu in his address.
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