Can microbes produce oxygen in the dark?

Updated - January 11, 2022 12:00 pm IST

Published - January 08, 2022 08:05 pm IST

Oxygen source:  Ammonia oxidising archaea play a key role in the nitrogen cycle

Oxygen source: Ammonia oxidising archaea play a key role in the nitrogen cycle

Scientists say there would be no oxygen on Earth were it not for sunlight: the key component in photosynthesis. Now researchers from University of Southern Denmark have discovered that oxygen is also produced without sunlight, possibly deep below the ocean surface. Researchers have discovered that some of the invisible microorganisms living in water columns produce oxygen in an unexpected way.

Nitrogen cycle

A few microbes are known to make oxygen without sunlight, but so far they have only been discovered in very limited quantities and in very specific habitats.

But the ocean living microbe Nitrosopumilus maritimus and its cousins, called ammonia oxidising archaea play an important role in the nitrogen cycle. For this, they need oxygen. So it has been a long-standing puzzle why they are also very abundant in waters where there is no oxygen. The researchers found that these micro-organisms make their own oxygen, according to a University of Southern Denmark press release.

Keeps it going

The researchers conducted tests in the lab and found that N. maritimus was using the oxygen present in water but the oxygen levels started increasing again in water. They micro-organisms were able to make oxygen even in a dark environment. Not sufficiently high to influence oxygen levels on Earth, but enough to keep itself going.

N. maritimus couples the oxygen production to the production of gaseous nitrogen. By doing so they remove bioavailable nitrogen from the environment.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.