Understanding of methane-metabolizing organisms might have to be rethought after researchers announced discovery of two new ones.

 The discovery of the novel methane-metabolizing microorganisms was made using techniques that sequence DNA on a large scale and assemble these sequences into genomes using advanced computational tools. 

"Traditionally, these type of methane-metabolizing organisms occur within a single cluster cluster group of microorganisms called Euryarchaeota. This makes us wonder how many other types of methane-metabolizing microorganisms are out there?" asked Gene Tyson, associate professor and Deputy Head of University of Queensland's Australian Centre for Ecogenomics in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.  


Dr. Paul Evans from UQ's Australian Centre for Ecogenomics is analyzing a microbial community from a deep coal seam aquifer. Credit: University of Queensland

However, Dr Tyson's group discovered novel methane metabolizing organisms belonging to a group of microorganisms, called the Bathyarchaeota which are an evolutionarily diverse group of microorganisms found in a wide range of environments, including deep-ocean and freshwater sediments.

"To use an analogy, the finding is like knowing about black and brown bears, and then coming across a giant panda," Tyson said. "They have some basic characteristics in common, but in other ways these they are fundamentally different.

"This makes us wonder: how many other types of new 'bears' or of methane-metabolizing microorganisms are out there, that science has still not identified?

"The significance of the research is that it expands our knowledge of diversity of life on Earth and suggests we are missing other organisms involved in carbon cycling and methane production."

Source: University of Queensland