Microorganisms living in deep sea hydrothermal vents can grow off of energy derived from one of the simplest forms of anaerobic respiration ever described, according to a study published this week in Nature.
A deep-sea vent projects hot vent
fluid into the frigid water.

Image: Wikimedia commons, National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The reaction -- in which a chemical called formate is broken down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide -- was previously thought to be too energy poor to support the growth of even the smallest organisms. Finding single-celled microbes from Domain Arcahaea that can glean energy from it may point the way towards efficient hydrogen fuel production while providing clues as to how our planet's earliest inhabitants survived the harsh environment of a young Earth. "The cleavage of formate into hydrogen and CO2 -- that's a process which is already known for a very long time," said...
222Thermococcus onnurineusThe ScientistThermococcusThermococcusY.J. Kim, et al., "Formate-driven growth coupled with H2 production," Nature, 467:352-5, 2010.

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