Researchers are discovering that life forms can breathe arsenic

Credits Arek Socha via Pixabay CC

Several billion years before our era, the Earth had only a few single-celled organisms. A first life form who are not receiving a level of oxygen high enough, had to learn to survive by consuming other forms of energy present in a larger quantity, such as nitrogen, sulphur, or even arsenic. If the chemical element known as Ace is considered a poison for most land creatures alive today, the first organic beings present on the Earth would thus be able to breathe thanks to the arsenic.



“The idea that organisms could use arsenic to stay alive, supports the hypothesis of the existence of a whole new metabolism – Gabrielle Rocap, co-author of the study



A new study published this week on the website of the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) reveals the presence of microbial life in marine areas deficient in oxygen (ZDO). The researchers suspect that the micro-organisms present in these types of environments to be able to absorb the arsenic. A capacity that has gradually (almost) disappeared from the surface of the planet, including through the loading of the Earth’s oxygen through photosynthesis.


Microbes are not the only ones to be likely to be insensitive to the arsenic. Great white sharks do not assimilate but tolerate it, indeed it has been disassembled that they were in good health despite a strong presence of heavy metals, and even arsenic in their bloodstream. Immunization, probably due to their regular consumption of organisms contaminated.


For the moment, by simple observation in their natural environment, these micro-organisms thanks to the arsenic should soon be put in culture in order to be analyzed in more detail in the laboratory. A process which should enable better understanding of the functioning of their respiratory cycle.

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