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Biotech Science

Extreme Bugs Found In Slag Dump 53

lonefox_illuminus writes "The world's most alkaline lifeforms are living in contaminated water in the U.S. These microbial little fellas are able to exist in an environment as harsh and toxic as caustic soda."
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Extreme Bugs Found In Slag Dump

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  • obviously (Score:4, Funny)

    by sydlexic ( 563791 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @11:45AM (#7511021)
    the scientists are looking in the wrong places. I recommend the follow short list for locating the most toxic life forms:

    1) capitol hill
    2) the law firm of "Boies, Schiller & Flexner"
    • I believe that they've already covered such places. In fact, they would probably argue the following:

      1.) These bacteria are more toxic than those found on Capitol Hill since the ones on Capitol Hill still have expensive and delicate outer coverings on themselves. The lack of corrosion of these outer coverings is something that would occur naturally with the newly discovered bacteria, thus, they are more toxic than those on Capitol Hill.

      2.) The distinctions between stupidly evil and toxic cannot be mor
    • and top of the list, Redmond.
  • by utahjazz ( 177190 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @11:45AM (#7511025)
    Slag Dump
    Extreme Bugs
    Alkaline Lifeform
    Caustic Soda
    Contaminated Water
    Harsh and Toxic
    Microbial Little
  • by KDan ( 90353 )
    The most extreme posters have been found to live in caustic environments such as "Slashdot". They thrive in flames, insults, gross-out posts, and even first posts. They are known in the scientific world as "posterus slashdotterus". They are a dangerous species and should be handled with care. If you meet on, please call your local police authority immediately.

  • ... congress are breeding, are they going to put a stop to it?
  • It goes to show that life can live anywhere it wants. The depth of the oceans, and the acidic worlds of a slag dump.

    • by RALE007 ( 445837 )
      Leroy_Brown242 wrote:

      It goes to show that life can live anywhere it wants. The depth of the oceans, and the acidic worlds of a slag dump.

      The slag dump in the story is not highly acidic, it's highly alkalinic. Acidic would be a ph lower than 7. Alkalinic is a ph higher than 7. The dump in the story was measured to be 12.8. If I remember correctly, highly acidic is a ph less than 3, and highly alkalinic is a ph greater than 10, thus the interest in these microbes that thrive in an environment that appro

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @12:35PM (#7511468)
    Extremophile bacteria [] are found in all sorts of extreme places. Some can live in jet fuel (they corrode the tanks and require antibiotics in jet fuel). Others live in the acidic high-temperature hotsprings in Yellowstone. And entire ecosystems thrive around the 600 degree F "black smokers" in deep-sea thermal vents.
    • I can't remember what program it was exactly on. But, there was talk about how life on Earth started next to underwater volcanic vents. They managed to life off the chemistry in the oceans rather then sunlite. The process is known as chemosynthesis. If such a theory holds true, perhaps the moon Europa has life sustained from geothermic energy.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If Slag is seeing a lot of bugs in their dumps, it could be because they aren't writing enough unit tests?
    • ... I must confess that my first reaction was along the same lines. The whole description had me confused for 2 or 3 minutes until it finally got through my work-brain filter.

      I need a vacation

  • by scrytch ( 9198 ) <> on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @01:59PM (#7512124)
    "Extreme Bugs Found In Slag Dump"

    I've written code that could be described like that after it crashed and took everything else with it...
  • by jgardn ( 539054 ) <> on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @02:05PM (#7512171) Homepage Journal
    we must make sure that the slag dump is a protected environment. Any work in cleaning up the dump could result in the extinction of entire species of bacteria.

    Perhaps we could set up other toxic slag dump wildlife preserves in other places throughout the world.
    • Environmentalists don't have such knee-jerk reactions to the destruction of ecosystems or species: they want to preserve ecosystems and species when it makes biological sense.

      With your sarcasm, however, you display the typical level of ignorance of people who couldn't care less about the environment, or even about human health and welfare a generation down the road.
      • I find it interesting how enviromentalalists want to preserve the status-quo. Yet, by doing so, they could be seen as slowing (or stopping even) the natural process of evolution. Remember, regardless of human activity, every living thing thrives in our Earths Bio-sphere. That is, who's to say that we are really destroying the ecosystem? Maybe, we are just one of the many challenges an entire bio-sphere goes through. And thus, evolution has played it's part yet again.
        • It's a case of human's being arrogant.

          We assume that since we're the "most advanced" species on the planet, we must have the power to be a danger to it.

          I think a line I read in Jurassic Park (the novel, not the movie) sums us up nicely... it goes along the lines of "We can't destroy the planet... the planet has been through a lot more than us, we may destroy humanity, but the planet would survive."

          And indeed the planet has been through bigger things than we can produce... how about the entire atmosphere
          • the planet has been through a lot more than us, we may destroy humanity, but the planet would survive

            You are absolutely right: life on earth will survive no matter what humans do. And humans will be extinct long before the environment changes enough to threaten the planetary ecosystem.

            That's why environmentalists are ultimately not concerned with protecting the environment for its own sake, they are concerned with protecting the environment to keep the planet habitable for humans and to stop wasting wha
        • I find it interesting how enviromentalalists want to preserve the status-quo. Yet, by doing so, they could be seen as slowing (or stopping even) the natural process of evolution.

          As an environmentalist, I really don't give a damn about "the natural process of evolution", and I would dispute that there even is such a thing.

          What I care about is that I know that our species is adapted to the environmental status quo and that's why I want to preserve it. In fact, that's the "natural" goal for any species, i
          • A creationist environmentalist? Now I've seen everything.

            You want to preserve humanity? Why? All the environmentalists I know would like nothing more than to see the entire human race removed from the planet, preferably violently. It's a common enough fantasy...anyone ever see "12 Monkeys"?

            • All the environmentalists I know would like nothing more than to see the entire human race removed from the planet, preferably violently.

              Either you don't actually know any environmentalists or you are hanging out with psychopaths claiming to be environmentalists.
            • I'll make this short. I'm an environmentalist. I also have a degree in biochemistry and know a thing or two about ecology. I do not want the entire human race removed from the planet.

              Now we've met, and know each other, and you may retire what seems a favorite strawman.

              • Do a search on "rural cleansing". You might be surprised at the thoughts of a lot of the people you're in bed with. And did you see "12 Monkeys"? The Earth, returned to its natural state, with animals everywhere instead of people. Check out the reviews of that movie from environmentalists. If you're surprised, you're probably hopelessly naive.
      • Some do.

        The city/state of New York is currently fighting to fix a leak in one of the major NYC water lines. Why are they fighting? Well, the leak made the are a wetland and they greens are saying they can not fix it because it would destroy the wetland.

  • by Descartes ( 124922 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @02:29PM (#7512345) Homepage
    I don't know much about these kinds of bugs but I used to live in an area that was close to an old copper mine. The community tried all kinds of things to deal with the slag, including planting sunflowers (a.k.a. Jerusalem Artichokes) in it. IANABiologist, does anyone know if these things could actually be used to clean up slag? The article didn't really go in depth.
    • Well seeing as the bugs live off of the current envornment by "cleaning it up" they would be exterminating themselves.
      The concept of planting sunflowers or other species of "normal" plants is that life attampts to maintain an environment where it will survive. Thus sunflowers would attempt to change the slag dump into a envornment where it can live and thus so can we. These bug, in there attempts for survival, whould maintain the alkaline nature of the dump and thus be counter productive.
      • Um, it doesn't really work like that. Small life forms will reproduce as fast as they possibly can for as long as the food source is viable. After that, the huge population starts to die off to a level that is more sustainable by the environment. This also means there is less "food" which, if the food was a contaminant, means it has been partially processed. However, no where do they "attempt to maintain their environment". That's just, well, silly. On top of that, are the bugs in question actually feeding
        • Yeah, you're right about the bugs eating themselves out of house and home. For those who've made beer, yeast is a good example of this, they generally eat all they can until their waste product (alcohol, a.k.a the good stuff) is so strong they can't survive.

          The article mentioned the bugs feeding on the free hydrogen from the slag. It wasn't clear if that was the contaminant or just something else present in the slag.

          The impression I got was that these little critters live in a similar way to their cousi
    • It's called phytoremediation.

      The plants function as a contaminant sink - they are capable of absorbing trace amounts of elements/minerals from the soil. If you harvest the biomass, then you collect some of the pollutants along with it.

      It has been done in gold mine tailings with alfalfa: hts_archive/alfalfa.html []

      Although, I don't know if this is effective enough to warrant much commercial development. It works in small amounts, but I seriously doubt

  • by aphexbrett ( 220057 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @02:39PM (#7512435) Homepage
    Living in extreme environments is one thing, but completely different respiration systems is another thing entirely. This article reminds me of one I saw here []. Apparently, some microbes discovered utilize iron as opposed to oxygen in order to sustain themselves. That's quite an accomplishment.

  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2003 @03:52PM (#7513244) Homepage
    All your BASE are belong to us!

    I for one welcome our new Alkaline Lifeform overlords!

    There is no evidence that these bacteria evolved at all. This is just another case of scientific zealots bending the facts to fit their evolution-dogma. The scientific preisthood refuse to publish any paper that openly discusses the merits of creationist theory.

    Imagine an alkaline petri dish filled with a beowolf-cluster of cells!

    Poll, what should the scientific name of these bacteria be?
    () Coyboydacea Neilii
    () Cowboyacca Neileria
    () Cowboydium Neiliarum
    () Cowboyira Neilacillus
    () Cowboyus Neilidifera

    Natalite Portman, petrified and alkalined!

    Alkaline lifeforms are dying!

    (1) Adapt to an alkaline enviornment.
    (2) ???
    (3) PROFIT!

    Press release:
    It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for these bacteria to have adapted to this toxic sludge-pool with without the missappropriation of SCO's intellectual property. SCO's native habitat is toxic sludge-pools and only SCO possesses the genes required to thrive in this enviornment.

    In Soviet Russia alkaline sludge-pools adapt to YOU!

    Bacteria can survive corrosive alkaline envionments, they can survive 600 degree temperatures, they can survive intense radiation, they can survive powerful acids, they can survive toxic heavy metals, but they couldn't survive the SLASHDOT EFFECT!

    Photo: bacteria living in an alkaline enviornment [goatse.xx]
    (Link intentionally broken)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Although life can exist in these environments, did it actually arise in these environments or did it evolve from non-extreme ones? In the case that life could spontaneously evolve in these harsh conditions (harsh to me - perhaps not Cowboy Neal), then I would expect life everywhere in the universe. However, on the other hand, if they have to originate in 'nicer' climes and then evolve, then our search becomes more difficult.

    It's just that I find it difficult to believe that the components that make up l

    • I don't know about "spontaneous" evolution. These microbes probably have a life cycle measured in days or hours.

      Most likely the slag-dumpage occured over time as a result of industrial or mining processes. As the pH level is gradually increased, microbes that are not alkaline resistant are killed off. Those that are alkaline resistant, manage to live.

      Higher-lifeform evolution seems like an extended process to us, because mammals, reptiles, and amphibs have lifecycles that are measurable in years.

      We si
    • Obviously, these microbes did not spontanously form in this environment, but adapted to their new situation.

      All life on earth seems to have a common ancestor, it seems very unlikely that there are species of different origin in existance today.

      However, it is still very valuable information that life is possible under these circumstances. If you would start out with a lifeless world that has extreme conditions such as pH or temperature, it is at least possible for life to exist there.

      As for the formati

    • Probably one or more simple mutations due to cell damage. Because a bacterium reproduces by dividing itself, you only need one mutant to start a new strain, the statistics of that happening are immensely favourable compared to so-called evolution, which in creatures which reproduce sexually is a non-starter statistically.

      One cell, out of countless zillions, gets zapped in a favourable way, and you have, in a shortish time scale, a colony. As the environment changed, this would be repeated, who knows how m

  • I live in a slag dump you insensitive clod!
  • The world's most alkaline lifeforms are living in contaminated water in the U.S.

    I think I've been in this guy's apartment...

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