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Study Reveals Microbes Dine on Thousands of Compounds in Oil

Thousands of feet below the bottom of the sea, off the shores of Santa Barbara, CA, single-celled organisms are busy feasting on oil. Until now, nobody knew how many oily compounds were being devoured by the microscopic creatures, but new research led by David Valentine of University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts has shed new light on just how extensive their diet can be.

Seafloor bacteria are multi-tasking with the carbon cycle

Scientists have long known that microorganisms can use one of two different methods to convert carbon dioxide into a form that living things can use for energy. What they didn’t know until recently is that at least one form of bacteria can switch between these two “carbon fixation” pathways or use them both at the same time—a fundamental discovery for scientists who believe such bacteria played a role in the evolution of life on Earth.

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