New Bacteria Discovered… Eating the Titanic

Life is strange and, too often, even stranger than fiction. Ironically, imagination and science fiction, ’bout the same “too often”, become reality. Recently there was, what many people called a much to do about nothing, NASA press release about a novel bacteria. This space geek got wind of the press release about the press release. USA Today even mentioned, in a question at the press release, that many were expecting to see some type of actual ET.

The real deal is that there exists, right here on our planet, a little microbe that can actually uses arsenic in the place of phosphorous. Nothing like this exists elsewhere. Turns out that it might not be true though. How about another weird little bacteria?

Although not as novel as last week’s anouncement, I think it is pretty big news. They have been aware of rust and/or metal eating bacteria for some time now. A new species, “Halomonas titanicae”, has been discovered on the hull of the Titanic. The only problem is that it is eating it.. literally;

The novel bacterium has been named Halomonas titanicae by the scientists from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada and the University of Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain. The team also tested the rusting ability of the bacterium – and found that it was able to adhere to steel surfaces, creating knob-like mounds of corrosion products, which they will be reporting in an upcoming paper.

A similar bacterial corrosive process is thought to be responsible for the formation of the rusticles – which resemble rusty icicles – that adorn the hull of the RMS Titanic. While these appear to be solid structures, rusticles are highly porous and support a complex variety of bacteria, suggesting that H. titanicae may work in conjunction with other organisms to speed up the corrosion of the metal.


Kewl and weird at the same time for me. I also have to wonder how often metals have dropped to the ocean floors before mankind. What were they living off of before?