Scientists find unusual bacteria in California

Microbe in lake uses arsenic as a nutrient; not one of six major elements thought to be essential for life

Published December 2, 2010 5:23PM (EST)

Scientists have discovered a strange bacteria that can use arsenic as one of its nutrients.

The finding widens the possibilities for finding different forms of life here on Earth and possibly on other planets or moons. The unusual bacteria was found in a lake in California.

Six major elements have long been considered essential for life -- carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.

But the researchers found that the bacteria is able to continue to grow after substituting arsenic for phosphorous.

Ariel Anbar, a co-author of the report, said "it makes you wonder what else is possible."

By Randolph E. Schmid

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