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oil eating bacteria


 What’s in news?

At the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth’s oceans, scientists have discovered unique oil-eating bacteria.

Key data’s:

  • Unique oil-eating bacteria, may paved the way for sustainable ways to clean up oils spills.
  • The 2,550km (1,585 mile) long ocean trench is located in the western Pacific Oceanand reaches a maximum depth of about 11,000 metres. By comparison, Mount Everestis 8,848 metres high.
  • Voyaging to the bottom of the trench is hazardous and expensive, and only a few expeditions have investigated the organisms inhabiting this ecosystem.
  • One expedition was organised and led by the film director and avid underwater researcher James Cameron, who built a specialised submersible to collect samples from the trench.
  • In this expedition, from the samples collected, they found microorganisms that eat compounds similar to those in oil and then use it for fuel.

Oil Spill:

  • An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially the marine ecosystem, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution.
  • The term is usually given to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the oceanor coastal waters, but spills may also occur on land. Oil spills may be due to releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products (such as gasoline, diesel) and their by-products, heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.
  • Crude oil and refined fuel spills from tanker ship accidents have damaged vulnerable ecosystems in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, France, the Sundarbans, Ogoniland, and many other places. The quantity of oil spilled during accidents has ranged from a few hundred tons to several hundred thousand tons.

Impacts due to oil spills:

Impacts in Human;

  • An oil spill represents an immediate fire hazard. The oil spill fire produced air pollution that caused respiratory distress.
  • Spilled oil can also contaminate drinking water supplies. In 2013 two different oil spills contaminated water supplies for 300,000 in Miri, Malaysia.
  • Contamination can have an economic impact on tourism and marine resource extraction industries.

Environmental impacts;

  • In general, spilled oil can affect animals and plants in two ways: dirесt from the oil and from the response or cleanup process.
  • Oil penetrates into the structure of the plumage of birds and the fur of mammals, reducing their insulating ability, and making them more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and much less buoyant in the water.
  • Animals that rely on scent to find their babies or mothers cannot due to the strong scent of the oil. This causes a baby to be rejected and abandoned, leaving the babies to starve and eventually die.
  • Oil can impair a bird’s ability to fly, preventing it from foraging or escaping from predators. 
  • birds exposed to petroleum also experience changes in their hormonal balance, including changes in their luteinizing protein

 Oil consuming bacteria:

  • There are three kinds of oil-consuming bacteria. 
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria(SRB) and
  • Acid-producing bacteria are anaerobic,
  • General aerobic bacteria (GAB) are aerobic.
  • These bacteria occur naturally and will act to remove oil from an ecosystem, and their biomass will tend to replace other populations in the food chain.

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