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Images: Living Large in Microscopic Nooks

RUST IN DAVEY JONES' LOCKER—Reddish-orange iron oxide (the same chemical compound we commonly refer to as "rust") coats the seafloor on Loihi Seamount, an active underwater volcano 25 miles off the island of Hawaii. The material is made by an abundance of microbes that live and grow by oxidizing iron directly from solid seafloor rocks. To study these newly discovered microbes, scientists have established FeMO—the Iron (Fe)-oxidizing Microbe Observatory—on Loihi. (Terry Kirby, University of Hawaii.)

TRANSFORMING ROCK—Rusty-orange iron oxide coats the left side of this sample of seafloor rock, where microbes have oxided iron in the rock. They harness the chemical energy from this reaction to live and grow. The microbes did not progress to the right side of the rock, which remains its normal gray color. (Katrina Edwards)

A BUCKETFUL OF DATA—WHOI scientists prepared plastic buckets filled with thin, microbe-free samples of natural seafloor rock and placed them back on the seafloor. The experiment sought to find out what might “grow” on these “blank slates.” To their surprise, the scientists found that the samples were quickly colonized by intriguing microbes. (Katrina Edwards)

An experimental sample of seafloor rock is put back on the seafloor. Repeat animation

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