Source of Oceanic Mystery Methane Was Under Noses of Researchers All Along
2012-09-10 0:00

From: Geekosystem.com

Researchers have been seeing methane produced from the world’s oceans for years, but like methane produced in a crowded elevator, the source was a minor mystery that annoyed many in the field. But researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign may have finally cracked the secret behind just who dealt the methane being released by the Earth’s oceans, and it appears the answer was looking right at them the whole time — probably being conspicously quiet or pretending to check its email or something. The source seems to be one of the most common microbes in the ocean, Nitrosopumilus maritimus.

Science has understood that methane is being emitted by the world’s oceans for years, but have been confused by why that’s the case. Methane can be produced by microbial organisms, but they usually do so in oxygen-free environments — not oxygen-rich ones like the ocean.

Nitrosopumilus maritimus is among the most abundant microbes on the planet, so it’s a surprise that it could be keeping a secret as big as being responsible for as much as 4% of the Earth’s total methane production. Even so, that looks to be exactly the case.



Nitrosopumilus maritimus is an extremely common archaeon living in seawater.

The researchers responsible for the discovery weren’t concerned with methane when they started. Instead, they were looking for antibiotics they thought could be produced by the microbe. Nitrosopumilus produces a molecule called HEP, which has a role in synthesizing chemicals known as phosphonates used in medicine. That lead to the realization that the microbe was also producing a substance called methylphosphonic acid, which other researchers had proposed could be a methane source in the oceans. No one had found it in oceanic environs, though, until now.

It appears that when Nitrosopumilus shuffles off the single cell that passes for its mortal coil, it leaves behind methylphosphonic acid. That acid is broken down by other organisms that are hungry for the phosphorous that is part of it. When it’s broken down, one of the by-products is — you guessed it — methane. Lots and lots of methane that no creature in the ocean wants to eat, and is thus released into the atmosphere.

It’s a weird chemistry lesson, researchers acknowledged, but one that solves a lasting mystery about climate change and how the Earth’s oceans may contribute to it.


Article from: geekosystem.com




Related Articles
Giant plumes of methane bubbling to surface of Arctic Ocean
Methane bubbles in Arctic seas - more questions, fewer answers (2010)
Has Methane Started Venting From Sea Floor? - Wayne Madsen, 2007


Latest News from our Front Page

The Truth About Starbucks New Coconut Milk: It Isn’t Really Coconut Milk
2015-03-03 22:14
In an attempt to appeal to the non-dairy crowd, Starbucks is bringing “coconut milk” to the masses. After a successful trial run in select cities at the behest of their customers, Starbucks has decided to push forward with their dairy alternative. Providing a non-dairy alternative to dairy and soy is the second most requested customer idea of all time from MyStarbucksIdea.com, ...
USDA on board with shipping U.S. chickens to China for processing, then re-entry to States for human consumption
2015-03-03 21:32
“Chinese chicken” will soon have a whole new meaning, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently gave the green-light to four chicken processing plants in China, allowing chicken raised and slaughtered in the U.S. to be exported to China for processing, and then shipped back to the U.S. and sold on grocery shelves here. Furthermore, the imported processed ...
Feinstein: Netanyahu does not speak for all Jews
2015-03-03 21:52
US Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “arrogant” man who does not speak for all Jews. The Jewish lawmaker made the remarks in an interview with CNN on Sunday ahead of Netanyahu's controversial visit to the United States. The Israeli premier arrived in Washington, DC, on Sunday night ...
Netanyahu to US: Don’t negotiate ‘bad deal’ with Iran
2015-03-03 21:12
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the United States not to negotiate “a very bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear energy program. Speaking at a joint session of the US Congress in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “We’ve been told for over a year that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well this is a ...
School Textbook: “There’s No Such Thing as Reverse Racism” Only White People can be Racist
2015-03-03 2:14
Only white people can be racist. A school textbook teaches students that “there is no such thing as reverse racism” and that women can never be as sexist as men. The passage, which appears to be taken from a “multicultural education series” book entitled Is Everyone Equal, states, “STOP: There is no such thing as reverse racism or reverse sexism (or the ...
More News »