Heat-tolerant bacteria that survived meteorite impact

Dr. Aditi Jain New Delhi | Updated on June 14, 2019 Published on June 14, 2019

Meteorite found in Rajasthan village in June 2017

Dr. Rebecca Thombre,  Dr. Bhalamurugan Sivaraman,  Dr. S. Vijayan,  J.K. Meka and M.G.Rahul (L to R)

Microbes exist almost everywhere owing to their high adaptability. That is why scientists are on the look for those ones that can grow in harsh conditions. Such microbes could help them synthesize unique proteins and lipids which can have several applications.

On June 6, 2017, a meteorite landed on a sandy agriculture field at Mukundpur village in Rajasthan. A research team decided to seize the opportunity to isolate and study the bacteria at the impact site as they would have withstood the high pressure and temperature generated bymeteorite impact.

The meteorite was made of a highly dense material (2300 kilogram/cubic meter) and weighed 2.26 kilogram. It was traveling at an estimated velocity of about 11 to 30 kilometre per second.

On hitting the ground, it created a circular pit of 43 centimeter in diameter and 15 centimeter in depth.

A research team from Pune-based Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce collected soil and rock samples from the place of impact, together with samples from nearby areas not impacted by the meteorite, within 48 hours of the event. In the laboratory, the soil samples were added with a nutrient-rich medium first at ambient temperature and later at a temperature of 55 degrees Celsius. Once the bacteria grew in adequate numbers, their DNA was extracted and sequenced for a small piece of gene 16S rRNA. This helped researchers identify the bacteria, using the information from online databases of microbes.

Further analysis revealed that two bacteria, Bacillus thermocopriae IR-1 and Brevibacillus borstenlensis were more prominent in samples from the impacted area as compared to those from non-impacted areas. Bacillus thermocopriae IR-1 was studied more closely and it was found that it was able to grow at a temperature of up to 60 degrees and 10 per cent salt solution. It could also survive meteorite impact like situation simulated in the laboratory.

“No reports are available on the effect of a meteorite impact on microbial diversity in fresh fall sites. Identification of microbes that can survive under such pressures could help in study of the effects of space-related stress and interplanetary travel,” explained Dr. Rebecca S. Thombre, who led the research team from the Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce while speaking to India Science Wire.

Besides Dr. Thombre, the team included P.P. Kulkarni, E. Shivakarthik, T. Pataskar, B.S. Patil (Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Pune); Bhalamurugan Sivaraman, J.K. Meka, and S. Vijayan (Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad); Parag A. Vaishampayan and Arman Seuylemezian (California Institute of Technology, USA). The study findings have been published in journal Astrobiology. The study was funded by ISRO-Space Technology Cell, Pune.

Dr. Rebecca Thombre,  Dr. Bhalamurugan Sivaraman,  Dr. S. Vijayan,  J.K. Meka and M.G.Rahul (L to R)



(India Science Wire)


Twitter handle:@AditiJain1987


Published on June 14, 2019

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.