The newly discovered bacteria are able to absorb metallic manganese and use it as a food source.
Jared Leadbetter, an environmental microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology, discovered the bacteria almost purely by accident after leaving glassware in tap water after experimenting with manganese. The next day, according to a university press release, he discovered that the instruments were covered with a strange film – a layer formed by the vital activity of bacteria.
Other bacteria consume manganese, but for the first time a scientist has found a strain that can chemically synthesize it into useful fuel and leave behind manganese oxides. Leadbetter suggests that the find may solve the problem of cleaning water pipes. It could also explain the specific manganese deposits that are scattered across the ocean floor – it is possible that large colonies of elusive bacteria or something similar could gradually create them.