Bacteria feeding on metals discovered

Bacteria that feed on metal and use it as its source of calories were said to have existed a century ago but has only been proved now. Though such bacteria were known earlier, it was never found or traced until a researcher at Caltech came across such a bacteria by chance.

Jared Leadbetter, professor of environmental microbiology at Caltech, was performing experiments with manganese and left a dirty glass jar soaking in a sink at his office. On return     after several months, he found that the jar was totally different.

He said that it was for the first time that bacterium was found to use manganese as their source of fuel.

The findings have come up in Nature Journal. In the study, Jared Leadbetter and others said that bacteria can use manganese to convert carbon dioxide into biomass (chemosynthesis). Previously, researchers knew of bacteria and fungi that could oxidize manganese, or strip it of electrons, but they had only speculated that yet-to-be-identified microbes might be able to harness the process to drive growth.

He said that he found a black coating on the manganese that he left in the sink. The black coating was found to be oxidised manganese generated by the bacteria that might have likely come from the tap water.


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