Oxygen has historically been linked to sunlight. a new study have suggested that oxygen can be produced even without sunlight.
Scientists from the University of Southern Denmark recently published a study, Production of oxygen and nitrogen by ammonia-oxidizing archaea, suggesting that a particular microbe is defying previously believed science about the connection between sunlight and oxygen production.
Study, published January 6 Science, documents the microbe Nitrosopumilus maritimus and its cousins, known as ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Contrary to popular belief and discoveries made regarding other microbes in specialized habitats, these specific microbes are capable of producing oxygen without sunlight, possibly in some of the deepest depths of our environment, the scientists said.
“These guys are actually abundant in the oceans, where they play an important role in the nitrogen cycle,” said The study’s lead author, microbiologist and Professor Beit Kraft from the University of Southern Denmark. “For this they require oxygen, so it has long been a puzzle why they are so abundant even in water where there is no oxygen.”
Oxygen is the spark that sustains life on Earth, benefiting plants, algae and other bacteria. Sunlight remains an integral part of photosynthesis. Numerous species inhabit Earth’s water bodies, although those that live in dark environments and are capable of making oxygen are often explored in limited capacity.
Kraft and his team became curious whether Nitrosopumilus maritimus And ammonia-oxidizing archaea can function in oxygen-depleted water.
“We wanted to see what would happen if they ran out of oxygen, as they moved from oxygen-rich water to oxygen-depleted water,” she said. “Will they survive?”
To test their hypothesis, the researchers conducted a laboratory experiment that involved collecting a bucket of seawater from the ocean, testing every fifth cell because of the organism’s proliferation in the water.
Samples were taken from Marijar Fjord in Denmark.
The researchers then extracted the microbes from ocean water, or their habitat, and tested them in the laboratory to compare oxygen levels between an environment full of sunlight and an environment without sunlight.
While already knowing that ammonia-oxidizing archaea are microorganisms that continue the global nitrogen cycle, the researchers were unaware of the full extent of their capabilities.
found out that Nitrosopumilus maritimus Links oxygen production to the production of gaseous nitrogen, which in turn removes bioavailable nitrogen from the environment.
While the microbe didn’t create enough oxygen to have a huge impact on Earth’s overall levels, enough oxygen was made to keep the organisms alive in the dark environment.
“We saw how they used up all the oxygen in the water, and then to our surprise, within minutes, oxygen levels began to rise again,” said study co-author and university biology professor Donald Canfield. “It was very exciting.”
Kraft said scientists would be forced to “rethink our current understanding of the marine nitrogen cycle” if oxygen could be produced in this capacity in other regions of Earth’s water atmosphere.
“If they produce a little more oxygen than they need, it will be quickly taken up by other organisms in their neighborhood,” he said. “So, this oxygen will never leave the ocean.”
Her next intentions include investigating the fauna in other ocean-based locations around the world, including Mexico and Costa Rica.
newsweek Kraft contacted for comment.