Scientists have discovered nearly two dozen new types of microbes, many of which use hydrocarbons such as methane and butane as energy sources to survive and grow, meaning the newly identified bacteria might be helping to limit the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and might one day be useful for cleaning up oil spills. Researchers documented extensive diversity in the microbial communities living in the extremely hot, deep-sea sediments located in the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California. The team uncovered new microbial species that are so genetically different from those that have been previously studied that they represent new branches in the tree of life. Many of these same species possess keen pollutant-eating powers, like other previously identified microbes in the ocean and soil.
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