London, Dec 8 (IANS) A newly discovered species of rust-eating bug is devouring the Titanic wreck.
The bugs, seen for the first time, are helping decompose the famous ship at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, says a research team.
The team isolated the micro-organisms from a ‘rusticle’ collected from the ship, lying 3.8 kilometers below the ocean surface, reports the Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.
Researchers from Dalhousie University, Canada, and the University of Sevilla, Spain, say the bacterium could pose a new microbial threat to the exterior of ships and oil rigs, according to the Daily Mail.
Researchers also tested the rusting ability of the bacteria. They found that it was able to stick to steel surfaces, creating knob-like mounds of corrosion products.
While these appear to be solid structures, rusticles are highly porous and support a complex variety of bacteria.
The findings suggest that H. titanicae may be working alongside other organisms to speed up the corrosion of the metal.
Lead researchers Bhavleen Kaur and Henrietta Mann, from Dalhousie University, said: ‘We believe (the bug) plays a part in the recycling of iron structures at certain depths.
‘This could be useful in the disposal of old naval and merchant ships and oil rigs that have been cleaned of toxins and oil-based products and then sunk in the deep ocean.’