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Bug Science

Iron-Eating Bug Is Gobbling Up the Titanic 221

Posted by kdawson
from the give-'em-a-little-arsenic-and-look-what-happens dept.
gambit3 writes "A newly discovered microbe dubbed Halomonas titanicae is chewing its way through the wreck of the Titanic and leaving little behind except a fine dust, researchers report in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 'In 1995, I was predicting that Titanic had another 30 years,' said Henrietta Mann, a civil engineering adjunct professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 'It's deteriorating much faster than that now.'"
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Iron-Eating Bug Is Gobbling Up the Titanic

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  • Propellers (Score:5, Informative)

    by dunezone (899268) on Friday December 10, 2010 @10:17AM (#34513672) Journal
    When it all turns to iron dust the propellers will still be there as their 100% manganese bronze and will must likely be buried before they fall.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday December 10, 2010 @10:28AM (#34513764) Journal
    From Microbewiki on Halomonas [kenyon.edu]:

    Because Halomonas species are typically halophiles, they are usually found in water sources with high salinity levels, such as the Dead Sea and even within the frigid waters of Antarctica.

    In the paper [sgmjournals.org] you can see where this bug sits in the phylogenetic tree.

    I'm guessing the Midway Atoll has warmer water but you might find different microbes. I guess I'm more curious if the researchers think this bug already existed or if it was a neighboring microbe in the phylogenetic tree that colonized titanic and prospered, mutating slowly to what it is today -- accustomed to the iron of the wreck? If you drop anything with high surface area into the ocean and check it out fifty years later, it might be the norm to find some microbe busily breaking it down with a slight twist ...

  • by cobrausn (1915176) on Friday December 10, 2010 @12:00PM (#34514548)
    And now we're trying to save the internet so future generations can be exposed to how stupid we were.
  • by crunchygranola (1954152) on Friday December 10, 2010 @02:04PM (#34515762)

    ... The Atlantic is quite saline. Any oceanographers out there who can explain why salinity is distributed this way? I would expect the most saline areas to be near the tropics, and the least saline to be near the poles where you find melting ice and lower dissolving capacity of water (can you tell I'm not a chemist?). ...

    You have the arctic ice thing exactly backwards - the predominant process producing ice in the arctic is not glacier calving, but the formation of sea-ice through freezing. This process locks up freshwater and thus drives up the salinity. The other thing is that after the descending air circulation near the poles dumps its moisture as snow, it is really dry, and is it moves south along the surface it is both warming and picking up moisture further driving up the salinity, and the enclosed basin of the North Atlantic tends to traps the saline water thus formed.

    The saline water does escape the North Atlantic of course, by sinking to the bottom (forming the North Atlantic Deep Water, NADW) and flowing south. This drives the very important global thermohaline circulation system.

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