Monday, December 6, 2010

Titanic Rusticles Home to New Species

An example of rusticles. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
I pretty much picked this story to highlight as today's science find because I like the word rusticles, also the history of the Titanic. A rusticle is an icicle-like formation made by rust that forms on iron. Researchers have discovered a new type of bacteria in the rusticles that were formed by the wreckage of the Titanic.

New species of bacteria found in Titanic 'rusticles' explains that the Halomonas titanicae bacterium actually feeds off the rust formations. The bacteria are of interest because they could help researchers understand how bacteria participate in the breakdown of metal, which could have an impact on the safety of offshore oil drilling rigs and pipelines. After the BP Gulf Oil spill that was in the headlines all Summer, I'm sure we all want safer drilling mechanisms.

The story is also notable because the researchers sequenced the bacteria's genome to establish that it is in fact a new species. Genome sequencing is a relatively new tool for establishing taxonomy.

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