Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cool bacteria

Some pale and interesting bacteria have been found in a South African gold mine.

What is really interesting about these particular tiny critters is that they don't use photosynthesis at all, they're completely independent of sunlight. They are using "hydrogen gas to turn sulphate (SO4) molecules from the rock into hydrogen sulphide (HS). It is the energy-trapping equivalent of photosynthesis. The energy of radiation, which makes hydrogen gas energetic enough to form these bonds, replaces the energy of the Sun."

Tests on the inert gases in the water, such as xenon, concluded the Mponeng water had been isolated from the surface for about 20 million years, which shows that the bacteria had been living without any recourse to photosynthesis at all.

Little Henry was a scientist, Little Henry is no more,
For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4.

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