Photograph by Emory Kristof, National Geographic
Published December 10, 2010
A new species of bacteria has been discovered on the sunken hull of the Titanic—and it may be speeding up the decay of the historic wreck, new research reports. (See Titanic pictures.)
Scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, collected samples of the R.M.S. Titanic's icicle-like rust formations, called rusticles, in 1991.
Although the formations were teaming with life, nobody had identified the specific microbes on the ship, instead grouping them into broad categories such as bacteria or fungi.
So Henrietta Mann and then graduate student Bhavleen Kaur, now of the Ontario Science Centre, decided to isolate and identify one species of bacteria from the mess of microscopic life-forms.
The one they chose turned out to be a new species, which the pair dubbed Halomonas titanicae. The bacteria is part of a family that had never been seen before in waters as deep as those in which the Titanic sits, about 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) below the surface, Kaur said.
Titanic's Destruction "a Learning Process"
The Titanic sank 98 years ago and sat largely undisturbed on the seafloor until its rediscovery in 1985. Since then researchers have learned that microorganisms, seafloor currents, and the explorers themselves have been hastening the destruction of the ship.
Some experts hope to preserve the wreck by killing the metal-munching bacteria and shielding the boat from currents, allowing tourists and documentary filmmakers to visit Titanic for years to come.
But "letting it proceed with its deterioration is also a learning process," Kaur said. "If we stop and preserve it, then we stop the process of degradation."
Ultimately, such deep-dwelling, metal-eating microbes could teach engineers how to protect offshore oil rigs or dispose of other ships.
Research describing the new bacteria species appears in the December 8 issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.
This bacteria is just doing what nature intended, nature's recyclers. Without bacteria to break things down and recycle, the world would be covered in undecayed garbage, dead bodies, trees, old cars, ships, plastic..... We are already producing at a faster rate than nature can break down.....so, mother nature is stepping up and proving to us again, she will win in the end. Let the Titanic go.......there is too much debri to get rid of on this planet.
Is national Geographic covering up BP's, Man made Monster? Synthia? It is now known to be in Every Ocean now, and any large body of Water. this a live Microb that eats Carbon. so, as the Ocean Evaporates, Goes up into the Atmosphere. and comes back down as Rain, will it Kill us? It's a good Possibility, we are a part of it's food chain already.
Most Popular News
The enigmatic saola, dubbed the "Asian unicorn," is sighted for the first time in the 21st century.
From their backyard, a Texas couple caught a rare "roll cloud" on video.
Double comets and lunar encounters treat early bird sky-gazers.
The Yellowstone River's oil spill was the first in U.S. frozen water in two-plus decades.
Welcome to Nagoro, Japan. Human population: 37. Doll population: 350. When villagers die or move away, a woman makes a life-size doll and places it in a spot that was meaningful to that person.
As an ancient drought took hold, a water temple saw more offerings from desperate Maya, archaeologists report.
The Future of Food
How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?
We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.