A mind blowing discovery has been made by scientists at East Anglia University in the UK. They’ve figured out how “rock breathing” bacteria — yes you read that correctly — that live below the Earth’s surface survive by, well, breathing rocks. In a recently released study they describe how these nifty microscopic organisms could be a huge help in cleaning up oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster. With the spill inching towards the Gulf Coast solutions like this could help lessen the oily impact the disaster will surely have on the US coastline.

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The organisms actually attach themselves to heavy metals with small biological wires and basically steal energy from the mineral’s electrons. They derive their energy from the electrons in minerals by breathing them almost — but not quite — like we breathe oxygen. The bacteria are able to live in the Earth’s sub-surface because they have no use for oxygen and have long been a confusing phenomenon to scientists.

Now that researchers at East Anglia have discovered their sneaky ways we could start using these little guys to help us clean up areas contaminated with toxic heavy metals. It just so happens that we are in need of a heavy metal cleanup at the moment with the still uncontained Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Perhaps we could round up a bunch of these subterranean dwellers and dump them in the Gulf to help us remedy this disastrous oil slick.

+ Inhabitat coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Via Science Daily