Nice to see a story about an abundance of an oceanic food source -- any food source -- in the news (Inter Press Service via Reuters). Even better that it's down low on the food chain.
"Some 50 percent of the world's fish catch comes from fisheries off the west coast of South America, where the biggest of these bacterial mats are found," Gallardo told Tierramérica from Santiago, where he moved after his home and laboratory in Concepción were destroyed by the tsunami triggered by the Feb. 27 earthquake.While the largest mats, extending more than 130,000 square kilometres (Uruguay is 170,000 sq km), are found off Chile and Peru, smaller mats have been found off the west coast of Namibia in southern Africa, another region known for its abundant fish stocks.
But the mind-blowing stuff was yet to come:
These bacteria have a very old lineage, stretching back as much as 2.5 billion years to a time when the oceans contained no oxygen. At that time megabacterial mats may have blanketed the entire ocean, Gallardo said....These bacterial mats may be remnants of that Proterozoic period 2.5 billion to 650 million years ago, surviving in the oxygen-starved mid-depths of the ocean.
It's another victory for the jaw-dropping Census of Marine Life.