It is not uncommon for microbes to survive temporarily in hostile places, low in oxygen. However, a team of microbiologists recently discovered a microorganism capable of produce oxygen by itself.
This is a phenomenon never observed before. However, it is a microbe widespread in the ocean. The researchers therefore wanted to focus on the biological process used by these microorganisms.
Research has revealed that “These organisms play an important role in the nitrogen cycle of the ocean. » Thus, this discovery could upset current knowledge., because this biogeochemical cycle is at the basis of any ecosystem.
Microbes capable of producing oxygen without sunlight?
Recently, researchers have discovered a microorganism capable of surviving in environments unreachable by sunlight. This phenomenon is all the more fascinating because the sun holds a essential role in oxygen production.
These microbes are known as Nitrosopumilus maritimus (N. maritimus). In order to analyze these organisms more closely, the researchers removed them from their natural habitats and transferred them to the laboratory.
“We saw how they used up all the oxygen in the water, and then to our surprise, within minutes the oxygen levels started to rise again. »
Don Canfield, geobiologist from the University of Southern Denmark
Microbes that participate in the nitrogen cycle?
The production of oxygen from N. maritimus would be related to its use of nitrogen gas as a by-product in the creation of nitrite. These microbes would have convert ammonia to nitrite to survive in a low oxygen environment.
Indeed, by isolating the N. maritimus, the researchers not only detected oxygen, but also nitrogen gas residues. This study suggests that the process employed by these microbes removes bioavailable nitrogen from the environment.
Nevertheless, there is a need for further research. Indeed, researchers are not yet sure how the microbes pull off this trick. In addition, the amount of oxygen produced seems to be relatively low.