New Species of Bacteria Discovered in Underwater Volcano

By KM Diaz, | April 25, 2017

On October 2011 and March 2012, the Tagoro volcano erupted, producing pyroclastic flows of toxic gasses, hot ash, and lava in the water south of El Hierro Island.  (YouTube)

On October 2011 and March 2012, the Tagoro volcano erupted, producing pyroclastic flows of toxic gasses, hot ash, and lava in the water south of El Hierro Island. (YouTube)

Scientists have discovered a new species of bacteria, Thiolava veneris or Venus's hair, at the section of an extensive underwater volcanic eruption. The bacteria conquered an immense space in the Tagoro volcano.

On October 2011 and March 2012, the Tagoro volcano erupted, producing pyroclastic flows of toxic gasses, hot ash, and lava in the water south of El Hierro Island. In a previous finding, scientists discovered that the eruption made a formation extending from a depth of 400m to 88 meters above sea level, with a base covering 1.3 kilometers.

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The Tagoro eruption was catastrophic as it affected all lifeforms in the area. The drop in oxygen concentrations, a sudden rise in water temperature, and an enormous release of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide was lethal to most organisms.

However, scientists returned to the site in 2014 to find out that a new volcanic seafloor had been colonized. Roberto Danovaro, the team leader of the study from Polytechnic University of Marche, Italy, found an unknown species of white 1 inch-long bacteria in the area - Venus's hair bacteria - stretched across the seafloor enclosed in a sheath connected to the volcanic rock.

The research team utilized remote operating channels to carry out a geochemical, molecular, and microscopic examination of the bacteria. They classified it as a highly significant new species with special adaptations to withstand the harsh conditions.

Venus's hair possesses an unusual arrangement of metabolic pathways which enables it to grow in a post-volcanic eruption environment. It was able to control energy by oxidizing sulfide to take advantage of the volcanic environment.

Danovaro stated that Venus's hair might have arrived in the area after the eruption to take advantage of the conditions. David L. Kirchman, an environmental microbiology expert, also believes that the findings could lead to a better perception of how and where life begins.

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