Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bacteria Bathing in Volcanic Hot Springs: Life's Genesis

The Blade reports that two local scientists were part of a team taking part in a national research project investigating a bacteria found in a volcanic hot spring in Indonesia.

"We think that life began in this kind of boiling sulfur spring, so there are a lot of teaching principles that come out of teaching about the biology of the organism," said Cheryl Kerfeld, director of the education program for the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute.

The federal Microbial Genome Annotation research program through the Joint Genome Institute is researching the microbe Ammonifex degensii to figure out how the organism survives in such a climate.

A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA.

"It's almost boiling water that would burn your hand instantly. That's where it's happy," said Paul Morris, an associate professor of biology at BGSU.


Near-boiling water seems to be a hostile environment for life as we know it, but then, life as we know it is not what thrives there. Rather, that sulfury soup of minerals apparently was just the right combination to connect the molecules into something that later produced living, reproducing life.

This is a far cry from the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve, but then, how could primitive tribes wandering the deserts of the Middle East understand microbial genome formation? Even today, most Americans believe in the KAZAAAAM! instant Adam creation as told in the books of these wandering tribesmen. But then, the scientific acuity of the average American isn't too very great.

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