A new species of microbe may be consuming oil spilled in the Gulf. Depending on how fast microbes consume oil, the results could be useful in help scientists to determine what happened to the oil and how the oil could affect marine life.
In addition, the results also suggest that most of the microbes in the undersea cloud of oil are a new species that do not significantly deplete oxygen in the water as they consume the oil.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, The microbiology analysis is “very, very good”, said David Valentine from University of California at Santa Barbara.
This latest research follows another look at the same plume of highly diluted oil droplets. Both groups are at the same depth, and they recorded similar, very low concentrations of key hydrocarbons.They also both detected only a light dip in oxygen levels compared with water outside the plume. The team’s results suggest that oil degradation could occur faster than many researchers have anticipated.
Valentine cautions however that the team may have gone too far in inferring the high pace of degradation. For instance, he says, in the lab the team “fed lots of oil to the newly discovered organism, supercharged them, then asked the question: How fast are they consuming oil. It’s not surprising you can get them to do that quickly when you supercharge them.”
The question of the pace of biodegradation may be one of the toughest questions to answer, Valentine added. And methods for estimating the pace at which biodegrading takes place vary from one team’s cruise to another’s cruise.