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Lanthanide munching bacteria found in volcanoes

Scientists in the Netherlands have obtained the first evidence of a lifeform dependant on rare earth metals. The work may lead to the discovery of other previously unknown lifeforms and could advance rare earth bio-mining.

We use lanthanides every day as the red colour in our televisions, to reduce emissions from our cars and to communicate fibre-optically. However, no one had considered that these rare earth metals could have an essential role in biology.

Now, Huub Op den Camp his team at Radboud University Nijmegen have shown that the Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum SolV bacterium, a methanotroph (methane consumer) found in Italian volcanic mudpots, relies on lanthanides to survive.

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