Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin's Marine Science Institute have discovered microbes that may be able to help limit the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and possibly even assist with cleaning up oil spills. The new microbial species are genetically different so different from those previously studied, they represent new branches in the tree of life.

"This shows the deep oceans contain expansive unexplored biodiversity, and microscopic organisms there are capable of degrading oil and other harmful chemicals," said assistant professor of marine science Brett Baker, the study's primary investigator.

"Beneath the ocean floor huge reservoirs of hydrocarbon gases--including methane, propane, butane and others--exist now, and these microbes prevent greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere."

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