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Earth Space Science

Microbial Life Found In Trinidadian Hydrocarbon Lake 141

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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  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @04:34AM (#31868954)

    They are all related. They're all formed from the same set of physical principles due to being a product of the same universe. It's not a very useful concept, but it's true.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:holy crap (Score:3, Informative)

    by NekSnappa ( 803141 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:46AM (#31870450)
    Yeah, but nobody is willing to swim there.
  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:55AM (#31870544)

    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.

  • by redJag ( 662818 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:09AM (#31872244)
    The unattainable is unknown at ZomboCom []!
  • by juhaz ( 110830 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:25PM (#31873990) Homepage

    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 sticks around once you have it.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev