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New Bacteria Discovered Growing On Titanic

December 6, 2010

A new species of bacteria has been found in the wreck of the Titanic.

The Halomonas titanic bacterium was found in “rusticles,” which are the porous and delicate icicle-like structures that form on rusting iron.

Various bacteria and fungi live within the delicate structures actually feeding off the rusting metal.

The new discovery is described in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

Samples of rusticles from Titanic were gathered in 1991 by the Mir 2 robotic submersible.

Researchers from Dalhousie University, the Ontario Science Center in Canada and the University of Seville in Spain isolated the H. titanicae bacteria from these samples.

They sequenced the microbes’ DNA before finding out that they constituted a new member of the salt-loving Halomonas genus.

The bacteria are interesting to scientists because they may help shed light on the mechanism by which rusticles form and also on the general “recycling” that such microbes carry out on submerged metal structures.

The authors said that also has relevance to the protection of offshore oil and gas pipelines, and the safe disposal at sea of ships and oil rigs.

Image Caption: This is a view of rusticles on the wreck of RMS Titanic. Credit: Image courtesy of RMS Titanic Inc.

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