Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Extreme Bugs Found In Slag Dump

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the swamp-thang dept.

Biotech 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."

cancel ×

53 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Very good..... (-1, Offtopic)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 10 years ago | (#7510983)

But can they survive a /. Linux/Windows/Mac flame war?

Re:Very good..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514176)

Nice try karma whore.

obviously (3, Funny)

sydlexic (563791) | more than 10 years ago | (#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"

Re:obviously (1)

jellisky (211018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512383)

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 more emphasized here.

-Jellisky

Re:obviously (1)

tiger99 (725715) | more than 10 years ago | (#7529176)

and top of the list, Redmond.

Wow, that's some great punk band names (5, Funny)

utahjazz (177190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511025)

Slag Dump
Extreme Bugs
Alkaline Lifeform
Caustic Soda
Contaminated Water
Harsh and Toxic
Microbial Little

how right you are (1)

boarder (41071) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514981)

Caustic Soda is already a punk band name:
Caustic Soda [geocities.com]

Luckily, the other names are up for grabs (according to Google).

In other news... (2, Funny)

KDan (90353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511072)

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.

Daniel

extremophile flamers (1)

obtuse (79208) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511447)

Notice that all of these extremophiles (dwellers in deep sea vents, caustic soda, stone, and slashdot flames) are microorganisms. They have neither brain nor backbone.

Re:extremophile flamers (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511702)

Much could be said of the Slashdotus Cowardus Anonymous.

Re:extremophile flamers (2, Funny)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512016)

They have neither brain nor backbone.

So they are politicians.

Now they know where... (2, Funny)

the real darkskye (723822) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511073)

... congress are breeding, are they going to put a stop to it?

It goes to show . . (1)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511171)

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

Re:It goes to show . . (2, Informative)

RALE007 (445837) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512438)

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 approaches a ph of 13.

Re:It goes to show . . (1)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512469)

Are you implying that I should read the article?Strange logic.

Re:It goes to show . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513551)

It's alkaline, not alkalinic.

Re:It goes to show . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7529574)

It goes to show that you are a moronic gasbag with no better point to make. The depths of the oceans are full of life more intelligent than you as are the slag dumps.

You fr3akin dumba55.

Extremophile bacteria everywhere (5, Informative)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511468)

Extremophile bacteria [unsw.edu.au] 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.

Chemosynthesis (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514925)

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.

extreme bugs? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7511469)

If Slag is seeing a lot of bugs in their dumps, it could be because they aren't writing enough unit tests?

Sadly (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7511628)

... 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

what a title (5, Funny)

scrytch (9198) | more than 10 years ago | (#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...

To environmentalists everywhere... (4, Interesting)

jgardn (539054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512171)

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.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

penguin7of9 (697383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513017)

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.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514974)

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.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516014)

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 being flooded with oxygen, killing off most forms of life on the planet due to intoxication?

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

penguin7of9 (697383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7517188)

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 what must amount to trillions of dollars in valuable resources every year.

Every species or ecosystem that disappears is a tremendous loss of knowledge and information, something that we can never recover. That knowledge and information has enormous value, and we are just squandering it for trivial short-term gains. And any species or ecosystem that disappears may be something that our surival depends on in ways we don't even know about.

And indeed the planet has been through bigger things than we can produce... how about the entire atmosphere being flooded with oxygen, killing off most forms of life on the planet due to intoxication?

Quite right. And the organisms that produced that oxygen mostly perished in the process. And they didn't have to be very advanced to do that either.

But humans have evolved brains. The function of brains is to predict the possible consequences of our actions so that we can survive better. That includes not doing things that are likely to be harmful to ourselves. And one of the most harmful things we can do to ourselves is to change the climate and to kill off species and ecosystems.

We can't kill the planet, but we can commit mass suicide and make ourselves extinct. Maybe you relish that thought, I don't.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

penguin7of9 (697383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7517249)

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, it's just that we happen to have brains to help us with that.

And the environmental status quo includes a very specific set of climatic conditions, as well as a very specific and complex ecology. If our environment changes significantly, ants, rats, and cockroaches may thrive, but humans probably will disappear. I don't know about you, but that's something I want to avoid.

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.

We are humans--we have choices in these matters. We can choose to change the environment until the planet becomes uninhabitable for humans and some other species takes over, or we can choose to maintain an environment in which we know we can survive as a species. I prefer the latter choice.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7520169)

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"?

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 10 years ago | (#7520877)

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.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

ndinsil (454614) | more than 10 years ago | (#7526345)

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.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7539197)

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.

Re:To environmentalists everywhere... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#7522326)

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.

The only serious post... (3, Interesting)

Descartes (124922) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512345)

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.

Sucididal bugs? (1)

Theobon (691491) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512979)

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.

Re:Sucididal bugs? (1)

CXI (46706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513078)

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 on the contaminant or just on biological matter mixed into the pools? They might eat only non contaminants!

Re:Sucididal bugs? (1)

Descartes (124922) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513461)

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 cousins at the bottom of the ocean, and weren't participating in the oxygen/CO2 system that we enjoy.

I could still see them being usefull for cleanup even if they didn't eat the contaminant. Maybe they concentrate it or absorb some of it, so that we can just clean up the dead bacteria after they eat their fill. It's kind of like scraping the yeast from the bottom of your carboy when you're done with primary fermentation.

phytoremediation (2, Informative)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7515429)

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: http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/research/highlig hts_archive/alfalfa.html [stanford.edu]

Although, I don't know if this is effective enough to warrant much commercial development. It works in small amounts, but I seriously doubt it is used for much other than to fob off the greenies.

A greenie website for more info: http://www.aibs.org/bioscience/bioscience-archive/ vol45/green.clean.html [aibs.org]

Re:The only serious post... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7516596)

Fungi can be used to break down all sorts of nasty stuff - I think I remember an interview with Pual Stamets (notable mycologist) where oyster mushrooms were used to break down piles of PCB contaminated dirt. They actually broke down the PCB's, not just got them stored in the biomass.

Living in extreme environments is one thing... (4, Interesting)

aphexbrett (220057) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512435)

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 [chemslash.com] . Apparently, some microbes discovered utilize iron as opposed to oxygen in order to sustain themselves. That's quite an accomplishment.

One stop shopping, get all your cliches here! (5, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513244)

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)

-

Re:One stop shopping, get all your cliches here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513686)

Mod parent up!

Re:One stop shopping, get all your cliches here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514221)

You are correct. "Mod parent up!" should have been added to the list.

Re:One stop shopping, get all your cliches here! (1)

starX (306011) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513885)

Consider this post bookmarked, from this time forward, I will simply send people this link when they ask me what people talk about on slashdot.

Obligatory Simpson's Quote... (1)

Dave21212 (256924) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514366)


Best... Post... Evar !

Re:One stop shopping, get all your cliches here! (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514647)

what, no "first post" or pouring hot grits down my pants?

One problem with this though... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513539)

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 life could actually form in these extreme heat/pH conditions.

Just my cowardly 2 cents...

Re:One problem with this though... (1)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7515745)

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 simply use the same evolutionary logic that applies to "real" animals. Just compress it down to the number of lifecycles necessary to establish a genetically different population (instead of measuring evolution in terms of years or geologic epochs).

(+1, used the word DUMPAGE)

Re:One problem with this though... (1)

Benm78 (646948) | more than 10 years ago | (#7520879)

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 formation of life, we only have one real example: life on earth. The conditions required for life to form are therefor very hard to determine, this would require observing numerous planets and studying which ones have life and which don't.

Re:One problem with this though... (1)

tiger99 (725715) | more than 10 years ago | (#7529475)

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 many intervening forms there were between something normal and this.

It is also quite possible that many odd single-cell organisms exist in nature, but don't develop into noticeable quantities until the environment is optimum. Strange things abount at the volcanic vents on the sea floor, for example, maybe even around the caustic soda volcano in the African Rift Valley, and it is not impossible to postulate mechanisms whereby one of these could have been transported. It is a long journey for a bacterium, but not necessarily for a geologist's boot, for example.

An interesting experiment would be to take some of these, and put them in an environment which is then slowly brought back to normal. If the mutations are due to an equilibrium process, successive generations ought to contain a small proportion of their precursor, all the way back to the original.

BTW the environment is nowhere near caustic soda or paint stripper, a pH of 12.8 in nature is quite abnormal but not quite that extreme. Calcium hydroxide is only lime, the stuff you mix with cement to make bricklaying mortar a bit more useable, it does not immediately burn human skin like caustic soda (sodium hydroxide). Medium to long term, it would do you no good of course. Farmers put it on their fields to deal with acid soils. I don't think that when they do thisw, they kill all or the organisms in the soil. The alkaline earth elements (second column of the periodic table) and their compounds are very much less reactive than the alkalais (first column). Having said that, please don't play with calcium oxide (quicklime)!

Nevertheless, an interesting discovery, but it would be better without the sensationalism.

My parents visited me in University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7523014)

They basically said: They don't understand how I could live in this toxic-waste hell hole surrounded by half-finished beer bottles and seven-day-old pizza.
So, anyway, I pointed them at this article.

TDz.

Very Insensitive Article (1)

galacticdruid (569137) | more than 10 years ago | (#7525166)

I live in a slag dump you insensitive clod!

Hmm... (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 10 years ago | (#7527465)

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...
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>