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Current Affairs

Scientists uncover ancient underwater forest

Date: 10 April 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Scientists have uncovered 60000 years old forest buried near Gulf of Mexico and believe it may hold the secrets to creating new medicines and saving lives.

 

Background

As prehistoric humans just started venturing out of Africa, a forest of cypress trees grew on the banks of a river near the Gulf of Mexico. As the trees grew old, they fell and were buried under sediment. When the sea level rose, the remains of the forest were covered once again.

 

Details

  • The site, which now lies 60 feet underwater off Alabama's coast in Mobile Bay has been visited by a few scientists and filmmakers.

  • A team of scientists from Northeastern University and the University of Utah set out on an expedition funded by NOAA to dive into the waters and bring back pieces of wood to study.

  • Despite the wood being 60,000 years old, it was extremely well-preserved because it had been buried under layers of sediment that prevented oxygen from decomposing it.

  • The shipworms from the ancient wood produced 100 strains of bacteria, many of them novel, and 12 are undergoing DNA sequencing to evaluate their potential to make new drug treatments.

  • Shipworms are common and can be found in most oceans wherever there's wood. But the bacteria found from the shipworms that had been living inside the 60,000-year-old wood had never been discovered before.

  • In addition to lifesaving medicines, scientists will study the new samples to see whether they can be applied in production of paper, textiles, food, animal feeds, fine chemicals and renewable fuels.