Third letter from Mario

posted Aug 28, 2010, 11:42 AM by Beth Orcutt

Greetings, microbe friends! Here’s another letter from Mario the Marinobacter, which gives little insight into the unique tracer experiment that the scientists were conducting yesterday  – SAM 

So I'm hanging out in the pore space, all glommed on to a particle of rock with some other expat Marinobacter aquaeolei, and we're trading stories about the life back in the surface ocean, when all of a sudden, the ground starts to shake and then things go nuts. A giant pipe comes down right past where we are chilling, and the next thing I know, the pipe stops and out comes a rush of water filled with rare earth salts (yum!), sulfur hexafluoride gas (eh), and bright fluorescent particles (which make the most excellent flagellum soccer balls), followed by a slime of glowing bacteria. I'm sitting there watching all of this stuff stream by, and guess who I see? It's Lenny! He's stained bright yellow, and he's mixed in with all the other stuff being pumped into the rock. 

I barely get a look at him and then he's gone, heading off along a big fracture towards the northeast. I don't have much time to think and I have to make a fast decision, so I release from the particle I'm holding and flagellate my way into the stream of funny water, going with the flow. I know that Lenny would do the same for me. Now you might think that a big fracture in rubbly rock is pretty continuous, but it's not. It goes this way and that way, getting thinner and wider, breaking off into other fractures that join up again. 

I ride the water for a while, and eventually it slows down. Finally, it slows enough that I can get out of the flow and grab on to a new rock and get a look around. I don’t see Lenny, but there are more Archaeaglobus fulgidus and a few other species I've never seen before. I figure I'll give it a go in this new neighborhood, since I'm realizing that I'll probably never get back to the photic zone again. That's OK, I'm getting used to it down here, and I want to keep looking for Lenny, to find out how he got that fluorescent stain and all.