May 2017

Fighting a 450-Million-Year-Old Enemy

Fighting a 450-Million-Year-Old Enemy

When you think back to the age of dinosaurs, you probably picture a world of giant, ferocious animals roaming around humid and densely green environments. As such, it’s hard to imagine modern humans coexisting with anything from that time period. Yet, according to research published recently in Cell, we are living amongst creatures today that thrived not only in the era of dinosaurs but also as early as animals first adapted to living on land. Those creatures are antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Using Bacteria to Reduce the Size of Tsunamis

Using Bacteria to Reduce the Size of Tsunamis

It was roughly six years ago – back in 2011 – that a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a catastrophic tsunami, which devastated areas of northeastern Japan. You may recall the subsequent headlines, many of which focused on the resulting Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown. It’s scary to think that this disaster was neither the largest nor deadliest earthquake-tsunami combo in history. And that grim point is one reason a team from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology Kochi Institute is looking for ways to mitigate the size of tsunamis. What's possibly most interesting about the institute’s recent tsunami research, though, is that they’ve been investigating how to use bacteria to stifle tsunami size.

Bottom Feeders, Microbes of the Deep

Bottom Feeders, Microbes of the Deep

While many questions about the ocean remain unanswered, researchers have been able to understand the journey algae take when they die, namely floating to the ocean floor and settling with the rest of the deep-sea sludge. Given that this process is happening constantly in oceans all around the world, lots of algal remains accumulate on top of the bacteria living on the seafloor. Over time, this kills many of those bacteria. However, a peculiar bunch of these bacteria have been able to survive. To learn more about these mysterious organisms, biologists and geochemists collected drilled-out samples of seabed that represent hundreds of thousands of years of organic matter accumulation. As reported recently in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publication, researchers have made some remarkable observations about the microbial communities surviving beneath the seafloor sediment.