The researchers wondered about the black specks forming within their bacterial cultures…
New research at Virginia Tech, the University of Bremen, and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology has revealed that two kinds of microorganisms – methanogens and anaerobic methanotrophs – are able to produce a form of elemental carbon known as amorphous carbon.
For researchers who study methanogens and anaerobic methanotrophs, the discovery defies all previous expectations of what microorganisms can do, and sheds scientific light on some very interesting questions.
Why and how are these microorganisms making amorphous carbon? Is amorphous carbon being produced in large enough quantities to affect the carbon cycle on Earth?
“We never thought that amorphous carbon could be produced by living organisms because of the normally extreme chemical reactions that are needed to form it,” said Robert White, an emeritus professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This is the first report of amorphous carbon being produced by any organism on Earth, and we are very interested in the possible implications it may have for the carbon cycle.”Virginia Tech, “Researchers discover the first instance of living organisms producing elemental carbon” at Eurekalert (November 12, 2021)
Our expectations should take into account how little we even know about so many life forms on our own planet.
The paper is open access.