Icebound microbes breathe iron

Members of a microbial community from a pool of water deep under the Arctic ice power their metabolism by "breathing" iron, a study in this week's Science reports. The previously unknown mechanism may explain how microbes survived during a period 600 million years ago, when the earth's oceans were covered in ice, the authors say. Blood Falls at the Taylor Glacier Image: Benjamin Urmston The identification of the bacterial ecosystem's oddball respiration is a "remarkable discovery," said Alan

Tia Ghose
Apr 15, 2009
Members of a microbial community from a pool of water deep under the Arctic ice power their metabolism by "breathing" iron, a study in this week's Science reports. The previously unknown mechanism may explain how microbes survived during a period 600 million years ago, when the earth's oceans were covered in ice, the authors say.
Blood Falls at the Taylor Glacier

Image: Benjamin Urmston
The identification of the bacterial ecosystem's oddball respiration is a "remarkable discovery," said Alan J. Kaufman, a biogeochemist at the University of Maryland in College Park, who was not involved in the study. It's impressive, he said, that the group was able to "look with such detail at the microbiology of the consortium of organisms that is basically eking out a living in an environment where there's no new food." Jill Mikucki, a geomicrobiologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, who led the research,...
first discoveredThe ScientistTimothy LyonsEditor's Note: The title for this story has been updated from a previous version.



Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?