Surprising metals found in microbes

For first time, organism shown to need rare earth element to survive

By Gabriel Popkin, 14:39 PM November 12, 2013

Look out, smartphone users: Bacteria may be after your rare earths. A microbe that lives in one of Earth’s harshest environments, sulfurous volcanic mud pits, needs one of several industrially valuable metals to make a vital enzyme. While rare earth elements have been found previously in plants and microbes, the mud-pit bacterium is the first organism known to need them for survival.


Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum makes its home in volcanic pools outside Naples, Italy, where it endures steami...

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