Scientists have discovered a new bacteria which is capable of “eating” metal, and it actually uses it as a source of nutrition.
Jared Leadbetter, who is an environmental microbiologist at Caltech, discovered this bacteria by chance after he left glassware to soak in tap water. He was actually conducting experiments with manganese. However, the next day, he found out that the instruments were covered in some kind of weird film (the waste left behind after the bacteria ate the magnet).
Other bacteria consume manganese, but this one is the first one that can chemosynthesis it into fuel and leave manganese oxides behind. Scientists talked about this bacteria for a very long time, but no one has actually found it before. This thing might have solved a mystery involving the water pipes in that area.
According to Leadbetter, “There is a whole set of environmental engineering literature on drinking-water-distribution systems getting clogged by manganese oxides. But how and for what reason such material is generated, there has remained an enigma. Clearly, many scientists have considered that bacteria using manganese for energy might be responsible, but evidence supporting this idea was not available until now.”
This discovery might explain all the weird manganese orbs found at the bottom of the ocean. Big colonies of this bacteria may have built them up in time, piece by piece.
A researcher from Caltech, Hang Yu, stated that this shows the need to understand better the marine manganese nodules before they are actually destroyed by mining.