Scientists Find a Mystery Species of Marine Bacteria

Scientists Find a Mystery Species of Marine Bacteria

Researchers in China uncover an intriguing marine bacteria, shedding light on deep-ocean mysteries.


Diving into the profound depths of our oceans, scientists have unveiled a previously unknown marine bacteria, enhancing our grasp of both deep-sea environments and the intricate world of microbiology.

Originating from cold seeps—deep ocean pockets rich in nutrients—researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences successfully cultivated the bacteria in lab conditions, mimicking its natural habitat. Christened Poriferisphaera hetertotrophicis, this bacterium hails from the Planctomycetes family, a group that although globally present—from lakes to soils—is somewhat enigmatic.

“Historically, Planctomycetes bacteria were isolated using nutritionally lacking media,” explains Rikuan Zheng, a microbiologist with the academy. “Our intent was to use a nutrient-abundant medium, thereby offering a deeper understanding of this elusive family.”

A Different Kind

Zheng’s innovative methodology simulated the ocean’s depths, revealing that the P. hetertotrophicis, or strain ZRK32, exhibited unique growth patterns. Notably, it reproduces through budding, where offspring emerge from ‘buds’ on the parent cell—an unprecedented method among Planctomycetes.


Additionally, this strain showcases a distinct relationship with nitrogen, aligning with a specific bacteriophage (a type of virus that attaches to bacteria) to aid in nitrogen processing.

Chaomin Sun, another microbiologist from the academy, remarks, “Strain ZRK32 is a groundbreaking species that thrives in nutrient-laden environments and releases a bacteriophage when exposed to nitrogen. Remarkably, this phage coexists harmoniously with its host, never harming it.”

Significance of the Find

Bacteriophages play pivotal roles in the nitrogen cycle, much like their bacterial counterparts. Anticipated research could delve into the symbiotic relationships between phage-ZRK32 and other Planctomycetes strains and their collective impact on marine ecosystems.

Given the omnipresence of Planctomycetes bacteria, it’s surprising how limited our knowledge of them remains, particularly in deep-sea contexts. This discovery narrows that gap significantly.

Sun concludes, “Our research offers fresh perspectives on nitrogen metabolism in Planctomycetes and a promising model to understand the complex dance between Planctomycetes and viruses.”


For those keen on a comprehensive dive, the study is available in the journal eLife.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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