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Researchers find evidence of photosynthesis deep within the ocean

TEMPE, Ariz. A team of researchers, including a photosynthesis expert from Arizona State University, has found evidence of photosynthesis taking place deep within the Pacific Ocean. The team found a bacterium that is the first photosynthetic organism that doesn't live off sunlight but from the dim light coming from hydrothermal vents nearly 2,400 meters (7,875 feet) deep in the ocean.

The discovery of the green sulfur bacteria living near hydrothermal vents off the coast of Mexico has significant implications for the resiliency of life on Earth and possibly on other planets, said Robert Blankenship, a member of the research team and professor and chair of ASU's chemistry and biochemistry department.

"Life finds a way," Blankenship said of the plucky bacteria that were found in a vent field called 9 North off the coast of Mexico. The bacteria apparently live in the razor thin interface between the extremely hot water (350 C) coming from a flange vent and the very cold water (2 C) surrounding it.

The research team is led by J. Thomas Beatty of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. They published their discovery in "An obligately photosynthetic bacterial anaerobe from a deep sea hydrothermal vent," in the June 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to Blankenship and Beatty, team members are Jrg Overmann and Ann Manske, University of Munich, Germany; Michael Lince, Arizona State University; Andrew Lang, University of British Columbia and University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Cindy Van Dover, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.; Tracey Martinson, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; and F. Gerald Plumley, University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, St. George's, Bermuda.

The team collected water samples around the hydrothermal vents of 9 North and surrounding areas. From the samples near the vents, they cultivated a microbe that
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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
20-Jun-2005


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