Dr. Alexander Loy from the Department of Microbial Ecology at the University of Vienna released his teams research results that certain types of “misplaced” bacteria in Arctic waters may be used to find undiscovered underwater oil fields on January 18, 2009 at http://www.fwf.ac.at/en/public_relations/press/pv201001-en.html
The bacteria were discovered in the sediment of the Arctic Sea bed, only thrive in temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius, and exist as spores the majority of their life cycle.
The bacteria are “sulphate-reducing microorganisms.” That means they use sulphate in metabolic processes to generate energy. These organisms do not require oxygen to live. A detailed explanation of sulphate reducing metabolism can be found at this web site, http://www.geobacter.org/publications/12823190.pdf
The researchers concentrated on 16S rRNA, a component of bacterial “protein factories.” If bacteria have this factor they can be assumed to be related due to the rarity of the factor and the fact that this part of the bacterial RNA has changed little if any through eons of evolution.
Dr. Loy says, “The closest relatives of the thermophilic bacteria in the Arctic come from oil fields in the North Sea. Up to 96 percent of the 16S rRNA in these species is identical to that of the species found in Arctic sediment.”
The result is to find new oil fields in the North Sea look for the bacterial spores.
“A Constant Flux of Diverse Thermophilic Bacteria into the Cold Arctic Seabed” C. Hubert, A. Loy, M. Nickel, C. Arnosti, C. Baranyi, V. Brüchert, T. Ferdelman, K. Finster, F. M. Christensen, J. R. de Rezende, V. Vandieken, and B. B. Jørgensen. Science, 18th September 2009, VOL 325, doi: 10.1126/science.1174012
Dr. Alexander Loy
Department für Mikrobielle Ökologie
T +43 / 1 / 4277 – 54207
Coordinated with finding oil is the remediation of oil spills.
University of Alabama in Birmingham Professor Asim K. Bej, Ph.D., has co-edited a book (Polar Microbiology: The Ecology, Biodiversity and Bioremediation Potential of Microorganisms in Extremely Cold Environments) that is believed to be a first in the field of polar microbiology that examines the bio-remediation abilities of microorganisms in polar regions. Thie publication was announced January 19, 2009.
The book focuses on the bioremediation potential of local polar bacteria. Dr. Bej terms the bacteria extremophile due to their ability to live in very cold or very hot environments.
Research has not confirmed this conjecture, but it may be possible that Dr. Loy’s discovery and Dr. Bej’s work could identify a single organism that can perform both functions.