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Bacteria found near abandoned mines could shed light on early Earth

Green and white filamentous biofilm found at the source of the Cabin Branch sample site, fed by a perennial spring sourced from an area of past coal mining. The white filaments are primarily made up of Ferrovum sp., the bacterium described in the study. Credit: Jeff Havig / American Geophysical Union

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Geospace, American Geophysical Union
July 31, 2017

Acidified water draining from abandoned mines, studied primarily as a modern environmental hazard, may offer insight into the oxygenation of Earth’s early atmosphere and development of life on other planets, according to a new study.

Scientists studying abandoned coal mines in Kentucky found evidence for a bacterium capable of oxidizing iron in acidic runoff coming from these sites. These bacteria can survive in a range of conditions – from highly acidic to basic – and thrive on driving oxygen to react with iron and pyrite from rocks in the abandoned mines.

The researchers think these bacteria may be similar to those present during the Neoarchean period 2.8 to 2.5 billion years ago.

Read the full piece here: http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2017/07/31/bacteria-found-near-abandoned-mines-could-shed-light-on-early-earth/

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