“Mystery of Instant Life” Microbes Appear Out of Nowhere To Colonize a Volcano Eruption


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Researchers have discovered just that, identifying a new species of furry white bacteria covering a submerged volcano 130 meters (426 feet) below sea level in the Canary Islands that appeared to have started colonizing the volcano as soon as the temperature dropped.

"These organisms apparently come out of nowhere," David Kirchman, from the University of Delaware, told Sam Wong at New Scientist."I bet there were microbes appearing there just as soon as those rocks got below 100 °C (212 °F)."

Submarine volcanic eruptions are major catastrophic events that allow investigation of the microbial colonization of newly formed seabed created after the eruption of the Tagoro submarine volcano off El Hierro Island, Canary Archipelago that completely blanketed the seafloor with new rock over 138 days.

Italian and Spanish researchers went to survey the area in 2014, expecting to see the underwater region still barren. But to their surprise, they discovered that the volcano was covered in white, hair-like microbes – a species the researchers hadn't seen before.

"It was an impressive and surreal landscape, like discovering life on Mars," Cinzia Corinaldesi, one of the researchers from the Polytechnic University of Marche told The Atlantic.



Near the summit of the volcanic cone, at about 130 m depth, biologists found massive mats of long, white filaments they named Venus's hair. Microscopic and molecular analyses revealed that these filaments are made of bacterial trichomes enveloped within a sheath and colonized by epibiotic bacteria. Analyses of the filaments identified a new genus and species of the order Thiotrichales, Thiolava veneris.

Venus's hair shows an unprecedented array of metabolic pathways, spanning from the exploitation of organic and inorganic carbon released by volcanic degassing to the uptake of sulfur and nitrogen compounds. This unique metabolic plasticity provides key competitive advantages for the colonization of the new habitat created by the submarine eruption.

A specialized and highly diverse food web thrives on the complex three-dimensional habitat formed by these microorganisms, providing evidence that Venus's hair can drive the restart of biological systems after submarine volcanic eruptions.

The Daily Galaxy via The Atlantic, New Scientist, and Nature Ecology & Evolution

Image credit: ub.edu


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