Deep Sea Glow Powers Bacteria

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Deep sea glow powers bacteria, according to articles in ScienceNOW 20 June 2005 and Science News 25 June 2005. A team of scientists led by marine biologist Cindy Van Dover of the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, have found a type of green sulphur bacterium that uses the faint light given off by volcanic vents for photosynthesis. The light from volcanic vents is so dim that it cannot be seen by human eyes, but the newly discovered green sulphur bacterium has "sophisticated light gathering molecules" that can efficiently capture and use the light. Robert Blankenship, a biochemist on the research team commented: "They are the champions of low light photosynthesis".

All other known photosynthetic organisms use sunlight, but volcanic vent bacteria live on the deep sea floor, more than 2 kilometres from the ocean surface where no sunlight can reach. John Allen of Queen Mary University, London, suggested that living organisms first developed photosynthesis near hydrothermal light rather than sunlight and "Photosynthesis might be much older than most people think". Blankenship concluded: "Where there is light there is photosynthesis is the take-home lesson."

Editorial Comment: Where there is light, there may be photosynthesis, but the presence of light cannot make a non-photosynthetic organism become a photosynthesising one. Photosynthesis at any light level requires a precise, highly organised set of physical and chemical reactions, and is of no use to a cell until all the components are present. This discovery is also further evidence that volcanic vent bacteria are not primitive cells, having just barely evolved above non-living matter. They carry out complex chemical reactions that industrial chemists can only copy after the application of a great deal of University training, combined with innate intelligence and clever engineering. John Allen is partly right - photosynthesis is as old as life. The first living things God made were the plants on the third day of creation (Gen 1:11). (Ref. design, micro-organisms, biochemistry)