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Methane mystery

Solving a Methane Mystery

An enduring ocean mystery may finally be solved. For decades, scientists have known that the ocean’s surface waters are full of methane gas. But they didn't know where it came from, because most of the microbes that make methane can’t survive in oxygen-rich surface waters. New research led by WHOI geochemist Dan Repeta may have found the answer. The study showed that photosynthetic bacteria in the upper ocean make chains of sugars called polysaccharides, while different bacteria snip apart those chains, releasing methane and other gases as byproducts. These findings reveal a previously-unknown microbial source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. (Illustration by Eric S. Taylor, WHOI Graphic Services)

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