So you know how BP and various others have been trying to sell us on the idea that the gargantuan oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico had somehow magically disappeared? Well, now some Berkeley scientists have confirmed that this actually may be happening, but it isn't magic. A newly discovered microbe, a particularly gluttonous form of oil-eating bacteria that have existed for millions of years on the ocean floor, appears to have multiplied rapidly since the April 20 spill and gobbled up so much of the dispersed oil as to render the plume "undetectable."
Now, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod just released a study, based on data from June, suggesting that the plume was breaking up so slowly as to potentially threaten ocean life for months. Also, previous statements from scientists, aware of the presence of oil-consuming microbes, suggested that because these microbes also consumed oxygen, a proliferation of them could result in oxygen-depleted "dead zones" in the water.
The new findings out of Berkeley contradict both of these concerns, showing that this newly discovered form of bacteria, called gamma-proteobacteria, thrive in the super-cold water at ocean depths of 4,000 feet, and actually consume oil much faster, and much more efficiently (with less use of oxygen) than expected. We remain slightly skeptical, but consider our minds blown.