'Inconceivable' Bugs Eat Methane on the Ocean Floor

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Science  20 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5529, pp. 418-419
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5529.418

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Most of the methane that rises toward the surface of the ocean floor vanishes before it even reaches the water. On page 484 of this issue, a team of researchers provides the clinching evidence for where all that methane goes: It is devoured by vast hordes of mud-dwelling microbes that belong to a previously unknown species of archaea. These methane-eating microbes--once thought to be impossible--now look to be profoundly important to the planet's carbon cycle.