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Earth Space Science

Microbial Life Found In Trinidadian Hydrocarbon Lake 141

Posted by timothy
from the blame-la-brea dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Pitch Lake is a poisonous, foul-smelling hell hole on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. It is filled with hot asphalt and bubbling with noxious hydrocarbon gases and carbon dioxide. Various scientists have suggested that it is the closest thing on Earth to the kind of hydrocarbon lakes they can see on Saturn's moon Titan. Now a group of researchers has discovered that the lake is teeming with microbial life which is thriving in the oxygen-free environment with very little water, eating hydrocarbons and respiring with metals. Gene sequence analysis indicates that these bugs are single-celled organisms such as archea and bacteria. The researchers say the discovery has exciting implications for the possibility of life on Titan. There is a growing sense that Titan has all the ingredients for life: thermodynamic disequilibrium, abundant carbon-containing molecules, and a fluid environment. There is also evidence that liquid water may not be as important for life as everybody has assumed, since some microorganisms can make their own water by chewing on various hydrocarbons. That may make Titan an even better place to look for life than previously thought."
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Microbial Life Found In Trinidadian Hydrocarbon Lake

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  • holy crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by martas (1439879) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:25AM (#31868438)
    they found life even there?? what's next, finding living organisms on C-SPAN?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey now, lets try and stay within the realm of logic here...

    • I have swum in the water on the surface of the pitch lake. Its not that bad.

      Rum and Coca Cola will hide a lot of sins :-)

      • AT least rum and Coca-cola is one drink. It seems to have escaped the editors that Trinidad and Tobago are TWO islands, but one COUNTRY.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

        "I have swum in the water on the surface of the pitch lake."

        I believe you.

        Apparently the poison is in your system so much so that you are the only person in the world who knows the linkage between swIm, swAm, and swUm.

    • they found life even there?? what's next, finding living organisms on C-SPAN?

      Whoah, there. Let's take baby steps. I'd say the next logical step would be to determine whether Larry King is actually alive. Then Elvis, and then C-SPAN.

    • I still haven't found a life down at Games Workshop.

      Zzzzzzzzzzzing!
      [/troll]

  • by assemblerex (1275164) * on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:30AM (#31868454)
    More like a poisonous, foul smelling sea of organisms with some asphalt sprinkled on top.
    This has a life density comparable to seawater.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by martas (1439879)
      though based on the description it seems these things are pretty tiny... even for single-celled organisms. i wonder how their average cell mass compares to some of the more usual critters we know and love.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Depends on where you sample your seawater. But the cells here are much smaller. And Titan is unlikely in my mind given the 200K+ thermal difference. Life is clever, but the laws of physics catch up to you. Besides, we're talking long chain vs short chain hydrocarbons.

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        Life is clever, but the laws of physics catch up to you.

        Life, as we know it.

        Forms of life we've never seen may well be atermal.

        • by dwayrynen (304160)

          My new meme: If google doesn't know the definition of a word is, it's not a word...
          First corallary - if you can't find your word as a domain name with .com appended, it's not a word...

          Define "atermal"

          • by Thanshin (1188877)

            I meant "athermal".

            • by dwayrynen (304160)

              Mea Culpa... Makes sense now. ;-)

            • by RockDoctor (15477)

              I meant "athermal".

              Meaning what, exactly? I'm not sure that the concept is even possible. Everything has a temperature, even if it's zero Kelvin.
              What do you think that you mean by "athermal"?

              • by ranulf (182665)
                Athermal doesn't mean without temperature, but independent of temperature.

                "Forms of life we've never seen may well be atermal." means "Forms of life we've never seen may well not depend on temperature"

                • by RockDoctor (15477)

                  "Forms of life we've never seen may well be atermal." means "Forms of life we've never seen may well not depend on temperature"

                  That's still a pretty ... odd ... concept.

                  Of the one biochemistry that we're familar with ("CHON"-based, Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen ; nucleic acids as polymeric information carriers and amino acid polymeric chains as catalytic molecules), all forms require the presence of liquid water for active life (growth, reproduction) ; unsurprisingly then these life forms are restricte

          • by treeves (963993)

            What if Google "recognizes" the meaning of misspelled words? In that case, you can get by with "corallary" and he can get by with "atermal".

            On a related note, it was fun to read the comments after TFA at Technology Review and to see the grammar nazis finding all the errors there, too.

        • Forms of life we've never seen may well be atermal.

          Since absolute zero is unattainable, nothing in this universe is "athermal".

          The question is: at these temperatures where water ice is as hard as rocks are on earth, is there enough energy available to the molecules for any interesting chemistry to happen at all? Any life form is going to require interesting chemistry.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        Space is cold, but the rocky planets and most of the planet-sized moons of the gas planets have geothermal activity. So while the atmosphere and surface may be cold, subsurface temperatures can be much higher--high enough to allow for life.

    • I was about to say. If it was a lake of actual asphalt, these nations would have the world's best roads and be raking in millions for hosting F1 races.
  • Family resemblance? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by haus (129916) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:49AM (#31868520) Homepage Journal

    To the best of my knowledge all life on earth (at least all life that has been investigated at the DNA/RNA level) seems to have considerable similarities, which implies a relationship, perhaps a common origin point.

    I wonder. Will this life, which on the surface seems to be fairly different from most of what we know/understand as life will also have such similarities with life as we know it?

    If it does, it seems to show a remarkable level of flexibility, beyond what many may have imagined. If not, that may even be more exciting as it may provide support for the idea that the creation of life may not be an exceedingly rare event.

    • If not, that may even be more exciting as it may provide support for the idea that the creation of life may not be an exceedingly rare event.

      I wouldn't get too excited about that last bit. We need proof that life can originate in an environment commonly found on other planets. Right now all we're finding is that some life on an ecologically rich and abundant planet can evolve into a hostile environment. To use a poor metaphor: There's a difference between us breathing this atmosphere and putting on a scuba tank and going underwater.

      • by nashv (1479253)
        Unless of course if the panspermia hypothesis turns out to be a factor. Its a big "if", but the fact that life can be this robust increases the chances of it originating in small isolated sweet spots of abundance and then evolving into something that can thrive in what are thought to be largely hostile planets is encouraging. Of course, the felxibility at the molecular level suggests that there are many ways to skin a cat and be "alive".
      • That was his point. One of the things about life as we know it is that all of it uses the same "handed" stereoisomers (I no longer remember which). Based on what we know now, one would expect that if life started more than once some lifeforms would use the right handed stereoisomers and others would use left handed stereoisomers.
    • by jandersen (462034) on Friday April 16, 2010 @04:35AM (#31868964)

      To the best of my knowledge all life on earth (at least all life that has been investigated at the DNA/RNA level) seems to have considerable similarities, which implies a relationship, perhaps a common origin point.

      Which is of course what the theory of evolution tries to explain, with considerable success.

      While it is certainly remarkable how flexible life on Earth is, we also have to keep in mind that it has evolved from a common, water-based origin, and the fact that archaea can adapt to living in tar with access to very little water does not mean that life could have started in such an environment.

      The thing about water is that it is an altogether remarkable substance; it has a number of properties that are not found together in many other substances - I am certainly not aware of any - and there are reasons to believe that life (at least chemical life as we know it: with DNA/RNA, proteins etc) needs this constellation of properties to arise. We simply don't know if life can arise in other environments; our understanding of what life is at the deepest level is still very patchy.

      • Meteor hiking (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DrYak (748999)

        It still should be possible for life to emerge in a more "emergence-compatible" place like Earth (or some even suggest some comets, under specific circumstances), and then be carried to other planets by meteorites impacts, etc.

        Imagine a meteorite hitting Earth and ejecting a small amount of tar-growing Titan-compatible bacteria : with an enormous amount of luck, a few surviving spores could end up landing mostly intact on a Titan-like planet.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Actually, we don't have a definite answer on how life started on Earth at all (if it started here). For all we know now, it might as well have been in such tar pits. It might even have been quite hydrophobic initially. Almost certainly oxygen-rich enviroment wasn't a friendly place for it, and look where we are now...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        I’m sorry? Life did start out oxygen- and water-free. Where do you think all that stuff comes from? It’s processed poop. Nothing else.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by juhaz (110830)

          I'm sorry? Life did start out oxygen- and water-free.

          Here? Oxygen-free, yes. Water-free hell no. Elsewhere? Well, we'll talk about that when we find some.

          Where do you think all that stuff comes from? It's processed poop. Nothing else.

          Uhh, stars? Oxygen is a fusion end result, the third most abundant element in existence. I probably don't need to go into hydrogen, and the conditions for combining the two aren't exactly rare either. Water is one of the most common molecules in the universe, it's everywhere, and certainly predates any life by far. And unlike oxygen which is so reactive it tends to end up as a part of something else, water s

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        Three points:

        "There is also evidence that liquid water may not be as important for life as everybody has assumed, since some microorganisms can make their own water by chewing on various hydrocarbons."

        - Um, I have a theory that these organisms evolved from water-loving organisms. It seems Titan is likely to have surface water, and at least some of it is liquid at some time or another. So similar processes could work there. But these bacteria etc. need not have sprung forth without access to, and dependen

  • water (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:54AM (#31868534)

    "since some microorganisms can make their own water by chewing on various hydrocarbons"

    It's a chicken-and-egg issue. Why should something evolve that can create something that it needs to exist in the first place? It doesn't seem to be very likely that something organism evolves out an environment without water, that later needs water. But, it may evolve from a wet environment to a state where it later no longer depends on pre-supplied water.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Why should something evolve that can create something that it needs to exist in the first place? It doesn't seem to be very likely that something organism evolves out an environment without water, that later needs water. But, it may evolve from a wet environment to a state where it later no longer depends on pre-supplied water.

      Have you thought of the possibility of an organism that doesn't need water, and still dumps it as byproduct of one of its processes?

      A small part of those organisms could then evolve to use that water for a more optimized way of transport, for example. Some coule even evolve so much, they'd require the water, and still produce it.

      ta-da!

      • Oryx (Score:2, Insightful)

        by flyingfsck (986395)

        An Oryx doesn't drink water, but it pees.

        A chicken does drink water, but it doesn't pee.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          All oryx species prefer near-desert conditions and can survive without water for long periods.

          >implying they still need water to live.

        • by Abstrackt (609015)

          An Oryx doesn't drink water, but it pees.

          A chicken does drink water, but it doesn't pee.

          Minor nitpick: chickens release urine at the same time as their poop, which is why it's always wet.

          • One more nitpick - mammals excrete excess nitrogen in form of urea, which needs to be dissolved in a lot of water, hence the urin. Birds, on the other hand, excrete uric acid, which comes out near crystalline, with much less water.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Half-pint HAL (718102)

          They don't drink but they do ingest water as a constituent of the solid foods they eat. Dessication works as a form of preservation or mummification precisely because practically nothing in nature will eat anything devoid of water.

          Going back to the point, water-based life can only evolve in the presence of water. Water-based life faced with an scarcity of water may evolve the ability to synthesise its own water. It could then slowly adapt to survive in a complete absence of water. (Compare with trees, w

          • by sznupi (719324)

            Unlike hot-vent extremophiles, it's hard to argue that these bacteria could be the source of life as they live in hydrocarbons, which are the result of a not-yet-fully-understood process involving dead organic matter.

            Not quite; you can find a lot of hydracarbons beyond Earth.

    • It doesn't seem to be very likely that something organism evolves out an environment without water, that later needs water

      Why does it seem unlikely?

      It's ancestors could feasibly have not needed water to exist but produced it as a by product to some other useful function.

    • oxygen (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sznupi (719324) on Friday April 16, 2010 @07:49AM (#31869938) Homepage

      Our (very) distant ancestors evolved and thrived in an enviroment without significant amounts of oxygen; heck, it was most likely a poison to them. But then a group dumping it in large amounts showed up, and the rest is history...

      Now, it even seems it's quite possible that, what was once a dangerous byproduct, enabled explosion of life later on.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      It's a chicken-and-egg issue.

      Well duh, eggs came first*. I mean, who has chicken for brealfast?

      Why should something evolve that can create something that it needs to exist in the first place?

      It doesn't need it in the first place; its decendants evolve to use and then need the poisonous byproducts of its existance. Oxygen would have been poisonous to earth's ealy life, but that life filled the atmosphere with it.

      * Less humorously, here's a hint -- Chickens only come from eggs, but eggs don't have to come fro

  • My mother-in-law is from Trinidad, this explains everything. I always thought there was something a little odd about the way she spent so much time filling up the petrol in the car. I thought that odd sulphurous smell was the cream she used for a skin condition.

    And all along, she was just a hydrocarbon sucking pitch lake alien!

  • That is not dead, which can eternal lie, and there are strange bubbly stinky pits in the Caribbean where even death may die.
  • I've always wondered why the insistence of water for extra terrestial life... why do you have to base it from whats abundantly around you in your tiny micro speckle of the universe and project it on everything? And now they're finding other types of life forms on earth too? Colour me non-surprised.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by osu-neko (2604)

      ... why do you have to base it from whats abundantly around you in your tiny micro speckle of the universe and project it on everything?

      You don't. However, if you're going to theorize life without this chemical that plays a crucial role in so many chemical processes that are used by life as we know it, and expect to be taken seriously, you need to find replacements that are likely to exist instead of water in there alien environments and will be able to serve in its stead, or you need to come up with replacement life processes.

      Presumably, you've done neither... which would make your speculation on life without water about as scientific as

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      the reason for us assuming the need for water has nothing to do with projecting our requirements on the rest of the universe.

      it has everything to do with water's unquie properties. it's non corrosive, non reactive, is liquid at reasonible temperatues and is able to transport other elements without contamination.

      life isn't going to exist at 1000c or -200c, and the mechanics of life ie. a fluid transport mechanism, won't work with solids.

      if you can offer a viable alternative i'm all ears

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

        it has everything to do with water's unquie properties.

        ... as currently assumed by man. Why can't there exist something with simular properties?

        There IS a projection though, regularly they find life in a place they did not anticipate. Sulfarlake caves without any sunlight or water? Yep, there's an abundance of life there too.

        All the reasoning from on our little sphere and feable concepts mostly very limited to personal understanding and ability to absorb and conceptualize.

        The thing which strikes me the most

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          For starters: The GP assertion is based on a faulty perspective.
          Water is valuable because it is corrosive and reactive. Water is a near universal solvent, one that can dissolve small amounts of nearly any mineral. Water is a magnetic polar fluid with high surface tension. This is valuable for forming membranes. It is also near the triple point of temperature on earth and its most common solid form is lighter than its liquid form.

          The closest alternative to water that we know of is ammonia, it has similar pot

        • by Carnildo (712617)

          ... as currently assumed by man. Why can't there exist something with simular properties?

          Any substance with similar properties is likely to be a small molecule, simply because large molecules tend to be solid at low temperatures while dissociating or reacting violently at high temperatures. There are few enough stable arrangements of small numbers of atoms that scientists have done a basic investigation of most or all of them, and only a few have properties similar to water: polar, with a wide liquid range

      • by schon (31600) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:11AM (#31870696)

        I don't know what's more amazing - that you can post something that is so wrong, or the fact that someone modded you up.

        the reason for us assuming the need for water has nothing to do with projecting our requirements on the rest of the universe.

        This is hilarious - you say that projection has nothing to do with it, then you proceed to try to prove this point by projecting human requirements.

        it's non corrosive, non reactive

        BZZT. Water is very corrosive and reactive. It is known as "the universal solvent" for a reason.

        is liquid at reasonible temperatues

        How does one define "reasonible"[sp]? Oh yeah - by projecting our own requirements.

        life isn't going to exist at 1000c or -200c

        More projecting.

        the mechanics of life ie. a fluid transport mechanism, won't work with solids.

        Aside from the fact that this is just still more projecting, why exactly is water the only substance that fits this bill? Why could another compound not fill the same purpose?

      • by khallow (566160)
        Actually low temperatures help certain types of organized structures that could be common to life. For example, some computers run at liquid helium temperatures (-269C). Getting that kind of organized activity at those temperatures, means you probably can have life at those temperatures. A big point however is that colder temperatures would correspond to slower metabolic processes which means that evolution should be vastly slowed down. That means primitive life unless the environment has been around for mu
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        if you can offer a viable alternative i'm all ears

        I'm picturing a space alien that's constructed solely of ears.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      It's everywhere, not just in our "tiny micro speckle of the universe"; it's what you get when first and third most abundant elements meet.

  • That, Earthlings, is the replica of our home environment we've set up from where we will launch the conquest of your planet. And, for your information, here on Titan we call that a "five star hotel".
  • So obviously the requirements for sustaining life may not be exactly the same as those that are required to create it. What I mean is, millions of years ago on earth (or about 6000 years give or take) when that primordial soup formed a few amino acids/protein chain/whatever perhaps that required water? And in the millennial of evolution some of the organisms evolved to live without water. Does this make sense? I guess what I am really asking is how much do we know about the conditions that existed when
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by bmecoli (963615)
      or perhaps the primordial soup was more closely related to the newly discovered organisms and most of them evolved to the water loving organisms we all know and love today.
  • > That may make Titan an even better place to plant the life than previously thought.

    FTFY.

    I suppose our own microbes that live in such lakes are descendants of otherwise diverse ecosystem which existed in primordial times and Titan "weather" conditions are far less favourable to life.

    • by Burnhard (1031106)
      I was just about to make this very point. Could life on Titan have established itself in those conditions? The question seems to have been missed.
      • > Could life on Titan have established itself in those conditions?

        If we find life on Titan we will know that it could and did, won't we?

        > The question seems to have been missed.

        No it hasn't. How do you propose to answer it?

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @04:33AM (#31868950) Homepage Journal

    The whole problem about comparing this place to Titan is that Titan is extremely cold. Titan's got the materials (except for Nitrogen maybe?), for sure, but, it doesn't have the heat. Life is more of an energy problem than a materials problem. You need energy to roil things, to drive all those chemical reactions and to keep stirring the pot so evolution can take place. I would be more than willing to bet that you would find single cell life on Venus more than on Titan just because Venus has plenty of heat.

    • by m0n0RAIL (920043) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:47AM (#31869622) Homepage
      I assume then that the interior of the sun would be a good place to look for life, because of all the heat?

      You don't need a high temperature to drive the chemistry of life - you need a temperature gradient so that work can be done by transferring heat energy from one location to another. Titan has this due to internal heating from tidal forces, as has Europa. Life may operate at a slower pace in a cold environment, but the right catalysts could improve this.

      • by tjstork (137384)

        I assume then that the interior of the sun would be a good place to look for life, because of all the heat?

        You can take anything to extremes and make it silly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Peter Trepan (572016)

          Is it silly? If variable self-replicating patterns can be generated by plasma, you'd have the prerequisites for evolution even in the center of the sun.

  • That life did not evolve in this pond but adapted from elsewhere is even more remarkable. On Titan natives wouldn't exactly be hardy adapted 'extremeophiles' anymore, any life would have evolved there, and be even more suited to it's environment.

    So that density of biomass could be greater, Titan could be a living soup planet. There's a small issue of temperature, if someone could please clarify, chemistry is going to work is a little different at -230 c compared to more than +100c, IANAC but chemical ene
  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Friday April 16, 2010 @05:13AM (#31869174)
    This is a quote from a tourist some time before the article:

    "Unlike a sterile and lifeless parking lot, you soon get a sense here that this lake is somehow alive. Roy said that a forty foot by forty foot hole completely fills itself in within 3 days."

    "The lake is constantly pulling things into itself, almost like a slow motion black hole. It's supposed to have "feelers" stretching outward for several miles, additional veins of pitch which stretch out from the main lake."

    "this photo of him peeling back the hardened skin of the lake."

    "The lake seemed to me more than anything to be like a large creature with no face, only arms and guts in which it slowly swallowed everything around it."

    "If it swallows some things, then it also spits others out"

    "Here is some leaf litter from part of the forest floor which the lake swallowed, chewed around for a few years and then spat out as indigestible. These leaves were in perfect condition, but as dry as it's possible to imagine."

    So it seems to be a living entity, demonstrably fussy, finding it a hard time getting a decent meal and likely depressed.

    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Travel/TrinidadAndTobago/Trinidad/PitchLake/ [richard-seaman.com]
    • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:49AM (#31869630) Journal

      So it seems to be a living entity, demonstrably fussy, finding it a hard time getting a decent meal and likely depressed.

      Hmmm... In that case, I wonder what its /. UID is?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Sounds uncomfortably close to the living ocean on Lem's Solaris. Did he report strange visions of his dead wife or something like that?
    • "this photo of him peeling back the hardened skin of the lake." "The lake seemed to me more than anything to be like a large creature with no face, only arms and guts in which it slowly swallowed everything around it." "If it swallows some things, then it also spits others out"

      Hey, somebody warm Denise Crosby not to visit this lake. We might still avert that misfortune [nocookie.net]!

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      It's sad that the people who shed it off to ascend to an energy level aren't around any more. Don't send Marina Sirtis or Denise Crosby to Trinidad!
  • by f3r (1653221)

    I bet that in a thousand years from now we will consider life as anything having a)enough presence of nonequilibrium thermodynamics states, and b)the ability to perform universal computation (either classical or quantum, or maybe another yet undiscovered more general thing). This could include, as foreseen by Asimov, lakes of superconducting metals in remote planets. Will vegetarianism in the future include moral attitudes for superconducting helium inside high field magnets? Will we see an invasion of Eart

    • by Omestes (471991)

      Maybe in Pluto there is a colony of intelligent robots (which communicate through gravity waves, i.e. civilizations withouth a theory of quantum gravity wouldn't detect their communications) and they are waiting for our civilization to build enough autonomous electronic components, so that at a given point they will send a signal/virus, take control of all our electronic infracstructure and take on planet's control. The threats of civilization always come from possibilities that we weren't able to imagine.

      A

  • (extremophile evolved from life developed in mild, favorable environment) != (extremophile evolved in extreme environment)

    But it IS great news, and is at least 'proof of concept' as to the sustainability of life in extreme conditions, even if ultimately we discover that life needs a perfect little petri dish of conditions to get STARTED.

  • We have all known there has been life on Titan since Iron Man #55.

  • by Gel214th (827454) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:11AM (#31870120) Homepage

    It is actually a tourist attraction.

    Countries such as Germany mandate that their roads, the famous Autobahn, must constitute a certain percentage of pitch from Trinidad. The Asphalt from the pitch lake is internationally acclaimed for its high percentage of asphalt resins and world renowned for its quality.It is also the world's largest and most consistent deposit of natural asphalt.

    It is used in New York's Kennedy and La Guardia airports,to line the George Washington Bridge,and as previously stated in the German Autobahn system to name a few.

    In the face of all this the cavalier and in some sense derogatory terminology used by the poster is both unfortunate and inaccurate. One suspects the author has never actually visited the Pitch Lake in Trinidad. It doesn't smell, it is not filled with noxious fumes. The area is quite pleasant and forested.

    The pitch lake represents a little understood and fascinating eco-system, and it's great that it is finally being researched. It is incredible when one imagines how much of our past can be found in its depths,claimed from the earth tens of thousands of years ago, resting somewhere within it.

  • harness these guys for toxic superfund site clean ups, oil spills, etc

    sprinkle a little of this dioxin-b-gone on the brownfields, and voila!: strip mall and mcmansion ready building lots

  • The numerous grammatical errors in the article make me suspicious. You can read the original research paper here: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1004/1004.2047.pdf [arxiv.org] It clarifies many points
  • by steveb3210 (962811) * on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:39AM (#31870368)
    "Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago" There are two islands. Trinidad. and Tobago. And the country is Trinidad and Tobago. But its not just one island.
  • Wanna know how you can recognize someone who thinks he is an expert, but isn’t?
    If he considers water or oxygen essential for life, that’s someone like that.
    Remember that life on earth also started out with neither. We’re basically built of, consuming and endlessly recycling the poop of earlier organisms... and luckily our own poop feeds them again. (This only does sound nasty to us humans.)

    • I'm not sure where this notion that there was no water on Earth when life evolved comes from. It seems Earth was covered in liquid water from quite an early stage. There was no free oxygen, of course, but water? Lots of it.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'm no expert and won't pretend to be, but I've read books and it's obvious you aren't an expert, either. Life on earth started out without oxygen, but not without water.

      And we're not "consuming and endlessly recycling the poop of earlier organisms". Plants are made of water and sunshine. Many plants can grow in pure sand, and all animal life feeds on plant life either directly or indirectly (by eating animals that eat animals that eat animals that eat plants).

  • When I was a child we lived in Trinidad for a few years. The Pitch Lake isn't really as bad as the article makes it sound. It doesn't smell. You won't die from noxious fumes by going near it. You can even take tours and walk out into the lake if you want. There are some areas that are solid pitch and other areas that you will sink into and die if you try to walk on them. There are guides who know (hopefully!) where it is safe to walk. It's a pretty cool place to visit if you get the chance.
  • Have these people not heard of Thomas Gold? http://www.news.cornell.edu/chronicle/99/1.28.99/Gold-book.html [cornell.edu]
  • "You could become a Horta-culturalist!" - A.L..

    "Was found to inhabit a naturally occurring asphalt lake!"

    Cool. We have [three naturally occurring] asphalt lakes, other than our highways and roads!

    "Metal Respiration."

    Very cool. It's a metal breathing based life form Jim!

    The Horta's ancestors! It must be! [:)]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_in_the_Dark [wikipedia.org]

    "You could beome a Horta-culturalist." - Alan L.

    YUM ASPHALT! [:)] Titanic discovery!

    Microbial Life in a Liquid Asphalt Desert
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1004.20 [arxiv.org]

  • I was hoping to see photos of the organisms found. Sadly, from my quick skim of the pdf report, it appears they just did an RNA survey from various places in the lake and reported on the various amounts and types of genome sequences at various temperatures (This is how they determined the organisms were bacteria and archea). So unfortunately, no photos of the organisms.

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