Unusual mucous-like substance found buried within seafloor sediment

August 28, 2019

When Friederike Gründger and her team cracked open the long, heavy cylinders of black sediment drawn from the ocean floor, they were surprised to find pockets of yellowish-green slime buried within two of the samples. The average person may not consider the appearance of such unseemly goo as a cause for celebration, but the biologists knew that this slime, otherwise known as biofilm, was a highly unusual find in this particular location, and could even play a role in terms of climate change.

This group from the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrates, Environment, and Climate (CAGE) at UiT The Arctic University of Norway set out to investigate the microscopic and macroscopic organisms living in or around cold seep sites such as Gas Hydrate Pingos (GHP) in the Svalbard area.

These dome-like, geological structures leak methane gas into the ocean water with the potential to travel to the surface and enter our atmosphere, possibly advancing climate change.

Underwater organisms thrive on deadly greenhouse gas

Some of the organisms living at these sites are relevant to this process, as they have adapted to live off the methane and convert it into harmless compounds such as carbonate and water. This activity is called anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) and has a global impact on the diffusion of underwater methane. The most relevant entities contributing to this process are methanotrophic archaea (ANME -1, -2, and -3) and sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB), two microorganisms usually found living co-dependently in colonies. It is still unclear, however, where they can be reliably found and how involved they are in such methane control.

Slimy biofilm coats microbial communities; provides protection

Biofilms are glue-like substances that encase clusters of microbes to provide extra protection against the elements. They can be found all throughout nature, even on the human body; biofilms can lead to complications in wound care and adhere to your teeth as plaque. But they are also found on the ocean floor, protecting the microbial communities that set up shop near areas of methane accumulation. Where they are not usually found, however, is within the cracks and crevices of seabed sediment - at least, not as far as we know. But Gründger et al.'s research may be showing us once again how the ocean is constantly capable of surprising us.

Research findings surprise scientists

Here are the highlights from the recently published article from Gründger et. al. in Scientific Reports:

This is the first case of biofilms, visible to the naked eye, found in the cracks of methane-rich sediment in Arctic waters. It could prove to be a common occurrence of which we were previously unaware.

Both biofilm samples found were shown to have a very unique microbial composition with ANME-1 as the dominating group. This has only been seen once before, as reef-forming microbial mats in the Black Sea.

Although ANME-1 and SRB microbes usually help one another to absorb methane, there was no direct cell-to-cell contact between the two in these particular biofilms. This leads our scientists to wonder if ANME-1 could filter the methane without the presence of the SRB, something previously thought impossible.
-end-


CAGE - Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.