Environmentalists have made the first census of microbes in a thundercloud

Europe Ecologie microbes found inside a thundercloud and held their first "census", which allowed scientists to declare clouds most extreme zone the presence of life on Earth, according to an article published in the journal PLoS One.

"When we started this research, we are just hoping to describe the types of bacteria that are found in a previously unexplored habitat — thunderstorm clouds. However, we have found traces of an active ecosystem in the atmosphere," — said the head of a group of scientists Ulrich Carlson (Ulrich Karlson) from the University of Aarhus (Denmark).

Carlson and his colleagues came to this conclusion by studying the chemical composition of the hailstones that fell in the area of Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, after one of the storms in May 2009.

As explained by environmentalists hail particles can be used as an indicator of ongoing processes in thunderclouds. This is because the ice particles move randomly inside the cloud during their formation, collecting molecules, dust and living cells.

Following this idea, the authors analyzed the composition of hailstones, tracing the origins of organic matter within them. It was found that the grains contained a hail of more than 3 thousand kinds of organic compounds, most of which are commonly found in soil. Furthermore, the scientists were able to detect more than 1.8 thousand species of bacteria.

The researchers analyzed the structure of ribosomal RNA in bacteria and determine which families of microbes they belonged to. So, most of them belonged to the microorganisms of the class Actinobacteria (Actinobacteria), gamma-Proteobacteria (y-Proteobacteria), living on the leaves of plants. Apparently, these bacteria are temporary "guests" of the clouds, getting to them, together with wind and water droplets.

In addition, Carlson and his colleagues found in particles of ice and several types of germs that are not found in the soil or on the leaves of plants. These microbes are a few bacteria from the class metilobaktery (Methylobacterium), adapted for the "air" of life. In particular, the shell of these bacteria contains a pigment molecule to protect against UV rays. In addition, these bacteria are good at resisting pressure differences and are able to eat many different kinds of materials, which increases the chances of survival in a storm cloud.

The researchers believe that a large amount of organic matter in ice particles and bacteria that are adapted to life in the atmosphere, lets talk about their own "ecosystem" of storm clouds. Given the processes that occur within these clouds during thunderstorms or hail, we can talk about them as the most "extreme" zone of life on Earth, the scientists conclude.

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