WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (EFE) – A study by the University of Southern Denmark and published Thursday in the scientific journal shows that an abundant group of ocean-dwelling microbes are able to produce oxygen in the deep sea without the need for light. Science Journal.
Researchers Beate Kraft and Donald E. Canfield have discovered that a group of microbes known as Nitosopumilus maritimus, one of the smallest organisms on the planet and one of the most abundant in the oceans, is capable of producing oxygen in the dark.
Nitosopumilus maritimus is a unicellular microorganism that does not have a nucleus, which oxidizes ammonia to nitrite and is one of the main characters of the nitrogen cycle in the oceans.
To carry out the process of oxidation of ammonia to nitrite, these microbes need the energy provided by oxygen. In waters where oxygen is plentiful, Nitosopumilus maritimus has no problem picking up fuel from its environment.
But in the deep sea, where light does not reach and oxygen is scarce, Danish researchers have discovered that Nitosopumilus maritimus is able to generate the oxygen it needs from nitrite, making this microbe one of the rare organisms known to produce oxygen in the dark.
Most organisms that generate oxygen, such as plants, algae, or cyanobacteria, do so through photosynthesis that requires sunlight.
The microbe Nitosopumilus maritiumus is “already abundantly present in the oceans, where they play an important role in the nitrogen cycle,” said Kraft, assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark.
The researcher added that to perform their function, microbes need oxygen, so the question for a long time has been why they are so abundant in waters where there is no oxygen.
To understand the process, the researchers placed Nitosopumilus maritimus in a low-oxygen environment and noticed that within minutes, oxygen levels began to rise.
Scientists have also discovered that microbes produce just enough oxygen to support their metabolism so as not to affect gas levels on the planet.
“If they produce a little more oxygen than they need for themselves, other organisms in the vicinity absorb it quickly, so that oxygen never leaves the surroundings,” Kraft explained.
The professor added that the discovery may force a rethinking of the current concept of the marine nitrogen cycle.
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