More than 10 miles in the Yellowstone National Wildlife Park, at the edge of the caldera, a community of high levels is so diverse that scientists at the Montana State University call it "incredible, unique and really strange."
The microorganism community lives in a sapphire blue hot spring at 8,600 feet above the sea level in the Continental Division. This is a pool where volcanic gases mix with melting of snow and rain water, which is an exceptionally high level of diversity, says Dan Colman, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Agricultural College and Colleges of Science and Letters.
Coleman has discovered more microbial biodiversity in a sample of the size of the thumbnail than present if it were to combine all the biodiversity of animals and plants in Yellowstone. Some of them were bacteria and others were archeas, two of three areas of life, and less than half of them were detected earlier in hydrothermal systems. Some may even be modern relatives of ancient microbes that potentially offer lessons on life in the early Earth and the potential for life on other planets.
"We believe that this work has some rather broad implications that extend over several disciplines," Colman said. , the leading author of a scientific article, which explained the results of the ISU in a hot source, known as "Smoke jumper 3" or "SJ3".
The document was published on February 8 in the online journal Nature Communications . Co-authors were Eric Boyd and Dr. Melody Lindsay, both in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology
. Boyd said that the paper is unique because it does not just describe the variety found in the hot spring; it also explains the conditions that allowed us to develop and maintain this diversity.
"Many people are interested in discovering diversity. This is the ultimate goal. It's exciting," Boyd said. "What Dan wanted to know, why. Why are we so diverse, and why are some sources more diverse than others?"
Coleman attributes this diversity to the unique geochemistry of the geysers of smoke jumper basins, especially SJ3. He said that the SJ3 is the ideal place to begin to understand how geological processes result in increased volcanic gases in hydrothermal systems, and this, in turn, supports microbial life that depends on chemical energy sources instead of light energy.
We show that it is related to its geographical location and, not to mention, that it is located on one of the largest active volcanoes in the world, "he said. "SJ3 is located at a high altitude on the Continental Division, features that prevent the penetration of deep hydrothermal aquifers to this area." water when they rise to the surface. These gases can be mixed with near-surface waters, such as recent rains or molten snow.
He noted that the volcanic gas ending in SJ3 is very different from the gases that are present in our atmosphere, because it lacks oxygen. Rather, volcanic gas is enriched with hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide, and the water it impregnates is highly oxidized or rich in oxygen. The mixing of these different types of liquids is likely to aggravate the conditions that can support microbial life, resulting in greater variety and new opportunities to use their "gas" environment.
Comparing SJ3 with a buffet, Coleman said: how a greater variety of food attracts more and different types of people, and a hot spring that offers different chemical conditions.
So why did MSU researchers concentrate on this particular hot spring when Yellowstone has 14,000 hot springs?
Long been interested in the role of hydrogen in supporting microbes that receive their energy from chemicals instead of light, Boyd said that hot sources of smoke and other hot springs of the park were investigated in the 1920s and early 1930s by scientists from the Carnegie Institution in Washington, which published their findings in 1935, and later the work of the American Geological Survey pointed to particularly large volcanic gas volumes a pool of smoky smoke geysers.In knowing this, Boyd and four more people spent the day at Yellowstone in July 2014, collecting samples from the SJ3 and three nearby hot springs
"Looking at the hot spring, it does not necessarily tell you "How about this biodiversity," said Boyd. "But as soon as we measured the pH of the spring and made other measurements, we knew that we were taking out a unique spring."
Colman said that it would take another three years, to conduct genetic sequencing tests and analyze the findings. variety of microbial community. Most hot springs contain a few types of microbial organisms. This representative consisted of representatives of almost half of all known groups of microorganisms living on Earth, including dozens and dozens of non-cultured archeal and bacterial lines.
"Moreover, many of the lines that we found in SJ3 have recently attracted considerable attention because of their potential for informing about the evolution of methanogenesis (biological creation of methane) in addition to previously unknown types of methanogens and deep branched microbial lines , associated with underground environments and many other mysterious lines, "Colman said." It is likely that additional research on such systems and intriguing organisms will give them additional important insights on microbial ecology and shed new light. and their role in the evolution of biogeochemical processes ".
The lack of oxygen is not a jump to life
Daniel R. Colman et al., Mixing of meteoric and geothermal fluids is supported by hyperdispersion hydrothermal communities, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-08499-1