- In 2017, Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, discovered that microbes in Antarctica could live on air — by feeding off the hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to survive extreme conditions.
- The findings essentially mean that microbes using trace gases (gases in the atmosphere other than nitrogen, oxygen and argon) as energy and carbon source to grow is not a process isolated to Antarctica.
- The researchers found that target genes responsible for atmospheric chemosynthesis were “abundantly and widely distributed in the polar soils of the Antarctic, Arctic and Tibetan Plateau in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas”.
Back to Basics
- In areas of low photosynthetic capacity, atmospheric chemosynthesis helps microorganisms grow.
- Chemosynthesis is the process through which bacteria or other living organisms derive energy — from reactions involving inorganic chemicals — typically in the absence of sunlight.
- The process is also called carbon fixation, through which inorganic carbon is converted to organic compounds by living organisms and stored as form of energy.