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Scientists: Bacteria Discovered in Undersea Mud That Eats Methane

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BREMEN, Germany -- Bacteria that live in volcanically heated mud deep under the sea off the coast of Norway feed on methane, a gas that is partly to blame for climate change, a Franco-German team of scientists have discovered. The newly-discovered creatures were found in the Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano, a place in the Barents Sea where hot methane gas from deep under the earth seeps into the slime. The bacteria have evolved to live in conditions that would be lethal to other life forms.

The research was published Thursday in the British science journal Nature. Micro-organisms that consume methane have been discovered before, but the discovery helps science better understand how methane reaches the atmosphere.

Methane is a useful fuel, but when it escapes unburned into the air, it is a greenhouse gas that leads to nearly 25 times as much global warming as an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

The research, which was led by Antje Boetius of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in the German city of Bremen, established that the three species of methane-eating micro-organisms found consumed 40 per cent of the escaping methane.

The study said global methane emission from active submarine mud volcanoes could not be quantified because their number and gas release were unknown. The Haakon Mosby site is circular, 1 kilometre

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