etabolism with chemolithotrophic energy supplies and, specifically in the Mediterranean, the oxidation of carbon monoxide, probably released by tectonic activity, could be important. There is also evidence that the microbes rarely live isolated. The free living planktonic lifestyle is probably not very popular in this extremely depleted environment. Quorum sensing genes indicate that instead, microbes tend to aggregate in particles and they could become luminescent maybe to attract and be eaten by animals. This strategy could provide the cells with a sporadic visit to the nutritious oasis of an animal gut. Overall, this paper shows that the deep ocean possesses a rich and mostly unknown microbiota that deserves much more studies.
A recent analysis of a metagenomic library from the deep Mediterranean shows a surprising high number of quorum sensing or lux genes that are only expressed when bacteria live in colonies. The deep ocean might be too depleted in resources for microbes to live independently. Instead the association to detritus particles might give them a rich microenvironment. Now, some of the genes detected have been positively identified as luxA, directly involved in bioluminescence.
Why would deep sea bacteria be luminescent" One possible explanation is that they become attractive to animals that at these depths are very photosensitive. Being swallowed by one of these creatures would give the bacteria a temporary oasis of nutrient-rich conditions before another long dip in the abyssal black.
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