Categorized | Medicine

Halomonas titanicae, a new form of bacteria

Image courtesy of Lori Johnston, RMS Titanic Expedition 2003, NOAA-OE

Canadian and Spanish researchers have discovered a new form of bacteria, called Halomonas titanicae, which is contributing to deterioration of the the world’s most famous shipwreck.

The discovery was made by researchers Henrietta Mann, Delahousie University (Canada), and Cristina Sánchez-Porro and Antonio Ventosa, University of Seville, in a “rusticle” hanging from the Titanic at a depth of four thousand meters.

“Rusticle” appears like a stalactite formations but is created by corrosion of the metal of the Titanic in the deep sea.

Dalhousie University along with other partners, stated the bacterium Halomonas titanicae seems to be responsible for the creation of “rusticles” wich accelerate corrosion of metal.

The university revealed the discovery of this bacterium shows a potential new threat to the ships exterior and submerged metal structures such as oil rigs. In 1995. it was predicted the Titanic would survive another 30 years, but now it is believed that Halomonas titanicae will shorten this period. However, this discovery also opens the door for Halomonas titanicae to be used in recycling metal from old ships and obsolete oil installations at sea.

“We believe that Halomonas titanicae plays a part in the recycling of iron structures at certain depths. This could be useful for the dismantling of old ships and oil rigs that have been cleaned of toxins and deep in the ocean,” said Mann.

One of the questions that were raised by researchers is whether the bacteria was present on the Titanic before it sank on April 15, 1912, which killed 1,517 people, or if it is exclusive of this wreck.

“I do not know yet whether this species was aboard the Titanic before or after its sinking,” added Mann.

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