PerspectiveGeochemistry

How sulfur beats iron

Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 974-975
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255442

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Summary

Betting on several metabolic horses may be a sound evolutionary strategy for microbes, helping to increase their chance of survival in an everchanging environment. For example, many microbes can use a variety of electron acceptors to conserve energy. This feature allows them to respond when environmental conditions are changing, for example, when oxygen becomes depleted in aquatic environments. On page 1039 of this issue, Flynn et al. (1) show how iron-reducing bacteria can switch to sulfur reduction when the environment is too alkaline for iron reduction.