Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Microbes ate BP oil deep-water plume. Nature wins again.

Honestly, after a couple of billion years, why would anyone think that natural oil coming from the ocean's floor wouldn't have a Mother Nature kill switch?
A Manhattan-sized plume of oil spewed deep into the Gulf of Mexico by BP's broken Macondo well has been consumed by a newly discovered fast-eating species of microbes, scientists reported on Tuesday.

The micro-organisms were apparently stimulated by the massive oil spill that began in April, and they degraded the hydrocarbons so efficiently that the plume is now undetectable, said Terry Hazen of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

These so-called proteobacteria -- Hazen calls them "bugs" -- have adapted to the cold deep water where the big BP plume was observed and are able to biodegrade hydrocarbons much more quickly than expected, without significantly depleting oxygen as most known oil-depleting bacteria do.