Though people like to refer to their cars as gas guzzlers, organisms that eat alkanes more literally do indeed exist. They are also media whores.
Yes, oil consuming microbes have been in the spotlight quite a bit these recent days as the gulf coast waits not only for the Macondo well to be permanently killed, but for the oil to go away. Alcanivorax borkumensis is a feisty little guy, the first hydrocarbonoclastic bacterium to be genetically sequenced, and is found worldwide. Though there are other species of Alcanivorax, A. borkumensis is a favorite in the world of bioremediation because it synthesizes not just one, but several potent enzymes that assist in the degradation of alkanes. Naturally, they tend to dominate microbial populations in areas with ambient oil/gas seeps and those with high pollution rates. Continue Reading →