Microbes consumed oil plume, study says
By DAVID BROWN - THE WASHINTON POST
Added: Wed, 25 Aug 2010 20:55:05 UTC
The Gulf of Mexico ecosystem was ready and waiting for something like the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and seems to have made the most of it, a new scientific study suggests.
Petroleum-eating bacteria - which had dined for eons on oil seeping naturally through the seafloor - proliferated in the cloud of oil that drifted underwater for months after the April 20 accident. They not only outcompeted fellow microbes, they each ramped up their own internal metabolic machinery to digest the oil as efficiently as possible.
The result was a nature-made cleanup crew capable of reducing the amount of oil in the undersea "plume" by half about every three days, according to research published online Tuesday by the journal Science.
The findings, by a team of scientists led by Terry C. Hazen of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California, help explain one of the biggest mysteries a mystery of the disaster: Where has all the oil gone?
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