"Inconceivable bugs eat methane on the ocean floor" Questions

There are fourteen paragraphs in this article. While some contain a single main idea, most paragraphs have three or four concepts, ideas or important points. This article will require several close readings.

Make a cross-sectional diagram of the scene and microbial players described in this article. You will probably make many modifications. Give yourself lots of room, use a full sheet of paper and include the following:

Geophysical features: The microbial groups: The compounds involved:
  1. atmosphere.
  2. ocean water.
  3. mud above the sediments.
  4. sediments right under the ocean floor.
  5. sediments far beneath ocean floor.
  1. ________________
  2. ________________
  3. ________________
  1. 12C and 13C isotopes.
  2. methane made from the 12C and 13C isotopes.
  3. carbonates made from 12C and 13C isotopes.
  4. sulfates.
  5. lipids made from 12C and 13C.

Use your diagram to help answer the following questions (in complete sentences):

  1. Describe the amounts of methane found under the ocean floor and what dangers it might create.
  2. Describe how researchers tracked the carbon compounds in this system.
  3. What are archaea?
  4. How did two groups of organic compounds we are studying, lipids and DNA, tie together the methane and the identify of the methane munchers?
  5. In your diagram show the paths carbon atoms might follow (carbon-cycle style) as they interact with the microbe groups to produce the compounds described.
  6. The temperature on the surface of Venus is hot enough to melt lead. What may have prevented the Earth from becoming that hot?


Zimmer, Carl. 2001. "Inconceivable bugs eat methane on the ocean floor". Science. Vol 293. p418-419.