Planet Earth

Midas Microbes

By Sarah C GreeneJan 1, 2002 6:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Billions of years ago, Earth's atmosphere contained almost no oxygen, so primitive organisms survived by metabolizing dissolved metals. They even breathed gold, reports microbiologist Derek Lovley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Lovley and his colleagues study a group of primitive, bacterialike organisms, called extremophiles, that thrive in the scalding temperatures and bone-crushing pressures found at hydrothermal vents on the ocean bottom. Similar microorganisms may have been among the earliest life forms on Earth. The researchers placed extremophiles in a gold-infused solution and observed them converting ions in the water into tiny flecks of solid gold, which accumulate on the microbes' surfaces and eventually drop off. The discovery suggests that some gold ore deposits are actually biological waste deposited around ancient hydrothermal vents.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.