Thriving In Extreme Conditions


A mineral chimney and microbe mats on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Mineral chimneys are associated with sea vents that release oil and gas. The microbe mats are lying on sediments next to the mineral chimney. Credit: Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University

…takes more than a Red Bull.  You got to have the right metabolic pathways.  NSF highlights the work of Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia who studies how microbes survive and thrive in a deep, dark, noxious, oxygen-depleted, super-salty ecosystems that may be like the primordial ooze that life originated from.  This work culminated in a paper a few weeks back in Nature Geoscience.  Joye’s team shows that an active mud volcano and quite brine pool support not only different types of microbes but different types of metabolism.  Both of these contrast to the microbes of the surrounding water and sediment.  Joye, the lead on the paper, hypothesizes this reflect differences in dissolved organic matter from below the sediment surface and the contrasting flow rates in fluids between the two sites.

The NSF Site has video of Samantha Joye discussing these discoveries.

Joye, S., Samarkin, V., Orcutt, B., MacDonald, I., Hinrichs, K., Elvert, M., Teske, A., Lloyd, K., Lever, M., Montoya, J., & Meile, C. (2009). Metabolic variability in seafloor brines revealed by carbon and sulphur dynamics Nature Geoscience DOI: 10.1038/ngeo475

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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