The Pit of Life and Death

Years of copper mining left behind a toxic waste pit near Butte, Montana that is so massive the EPA's Superfund is relying on containment instead of cleanup. It was thought that nothing could live in that water -even migrating birds on a short stopover died by the hundreds! But in 1995, a chemist spotted clumps of green slime growing in the pit.
After examining the slime under a microscope, the researchers identified it as Euglena mutabilis, a protozoan which has the remarkable ability of being able to survive in the toxic waters of the Berkeley Pit by altering its local environment to something more hospitable. Through photosynthesis, it increases the oxygen level in the water, which causes dissolved metals to oxidize and precipitate out. In addition, it pulls iron out of the water and sequesters it inside of itself. This makes it a classic example of an extremophile. Extremophiles are organisms that can tolerate and even thrive in environments that will destroy most other living things. Some can even repair their own damaged DNA, a trait which makes them extremely interesting to cancer researchers.

Eventually, over 160 species of extremophiles were found in the pit -many never seen anywhere else before! These microbes may be able to clean up toxic waste and possibly even cure cancer. Read the story at Damn Interesting. Link

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I think I recall reading about that a few years back, in Wired maybe. Pretty insane stuff. I guess no matter how bad we screw up the planet, life will prevail. Just not - us.
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i'd like to do gene expression analysis of this slime with microarray. You could compare slime in the toxic sludge to those not in it. :D
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