Source of Oceanic Mystery Methane Was Under Noses of Researchers All Along
2012 09 10

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

US Silent on Psychologists Role in CIA’s Tortures: Doctors
2014-12-20 21:53
Physicians for Human Rights had not received any response from the US Federal Commission to their call to investigate the role of health professionals in CIA’s torture program, Deputy Director of the organization told Sputnik. December 19 (Sputnik) — US government has not responded to calls to prosecute doctors, who participated in CIA torture program, the Deputy Director of Communications for ...
Ziolebrities: Simon Cowell donates £100,000 to Israeli soldiers to please pregnant jewish girlfriend Lauren Silverman
2014-12-20 21:00
Cowell, 54, is also planning a secret trip to Israel soon as he embraces the Jewish faith of Silverman, 36 Gala: Billionaire Haim Saban with Cowell Simon Cowell has publicly donated nearly £100,000 in support of the Israeli army. The X Factor boss pledged the cash to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills. The lavish gala ...
Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
2014-12-20 2:17
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack. Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job. Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
2014-12-20 2:13
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled. Via The Hollywood Reporter: After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move. “The ...
The Bankster International
2014-12-20 1:55
Geopolitical analysis, the art of explaining power relationships through the prism of impersonal geography, can be a helpful tool for observers of the Great Game – but it also has its limitations. A case in point is the renewed US-Russia confrontation. Think tanks and policy insiders easily sell the narrative that from the dark days of the Cold War to ...
More News »