Alcanivorax borkumensis

By Paulina Lois and Paulina Roque


What are they

Alcanivorax borkumensis is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped marine bacterium that uses only petroleum oil hydrocarbons as sources of carbon and energy. It is found in low numbers in the upper layers of freshwater or marine environments such as the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean and Arctic Sea and becomes abundant in oil-contaminated waters. It is globally important in the removal of hydrocarbons from polluted marine systems.


This bacteria was discovered by the scientifics from the Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory in California. They studied 200 samples in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's oceans and found that a bacteria from the Oceanospirillales family is slowly eating dispersed oil, without harming the level of oxygen in the water.

How to find and extract oil-eating bacteria to clean up the ocean?

Unfortunately crude oil used to produce fuel and other items is toxic to plants, animals and humans, so if it is accidentally spilled all over the ocean it can have a big impact on the ecosystem although one way we could prevent a catastrophe like this one is by using oil-eating bacteria.

Bioremediation: this method of cleaning up oil consists of finding oil-eating bacteria in the ground and then waiting for bacteria to grow enough to put them back into the ground or oceans in very high numbers.