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Methane-Munching Microorganisms Meddle with Metals

On the continental margins, where the seafloor drops hundreds of meters below the water’s surface, low temperatures and high pressure lock methane inside ice crystals. Called methane hydrates, these crystals are a potential energy source, but they are also a potential source of global warming if massive amounts of methane were released during an earthquake or by rising ocean temperatures.

A pair of cooperating microbes on the ocean floor “eats” this methane in a unique way, and a new study provides insights into their surprising nutritional requirements. Learning how these methane-munching organisms make a living in these extreme environments could provide clues about how the deep-sea environment might change in a warming world.

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