There is a microorganism that we’ve known about for some time that eats methane, and now it can shapeshift.
The organism, known as ‘Candidatus Methanoperedens nitroreducens’ (or Ca. M. nitroreducens), is a critical life form in maintaining the climate. In environments where organic carbon is in abundance, as opposed to oxygen, the organism is particularly important for chowing down on methane.
Methane, of course, has a huge impact on Earth, as it traps heat in the atmosphere. This critter, however, doesn’t mind an all-day snack on the stuff – and now, it appears that snacking organism can do something else that’s really cool: shapeshift.
The research comes from a team at the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland.
The team of microbiologists found that the microorganism can rapidly change its shape and metabolism to adapt to its environment.
“We found in the current study that all the observed ‘Ca. M. nitroreducens’ cell types were genomically identical, despite having different shapes and gene expression profiles associated with carbon metabolism, movement, and cell division,” Queensland University of Technology Centre for Microbiome Research scientist Doctor Simon McIlroy said.
“The different cell types of this single microbial species appear to perform different functional roles, enabling the species to rapidly respond to and endure sub-optimal environmental conditions.”
This comes after the team originally found that the critter could adapt to environments by essentially stealing genes from other species, to enable the consumption of different nutrients.
This research was the first to demonstrate distinct life stages for a member of the Archaea within a complex microbial community, according to McIlroy.
“These findings have general implications for our understanding of how microorganisms adapt to changes in their environment,” McIlroy added.
Hopefully, findings like this can help us cut down on harmful things impacting the Earth’s climate.
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