Scientists have just discovered a type of bacteria that eats metal. Scientists have suspected such bacteria, which gets it calories from metal, existed for roughly 100 years.

After performing experiments with manganese, Dr. Jared Leadbetter, who works as a professor of environmental microbiology at Caltech, left a glass jar covered with manganese to soak in tap water for several months. Once he returned to check on the jar, he found it was covered with a dark material.

"I started to wonder if long-sought-after microbes might be responsible, so we systematically performed tests to figure that out,” Leadbetter says in a press release. Turns out the dark material was oxidized manganese, which had been newly generated by the metal-eating bacteria.

"These are the first bacteria found to use manganese as their source of fuel," Leadbetter said. "A wonderful aspect of microbes in nature is that they can metabolize seemingly unlikely materials, like metals, yielding energy useful to the cell."

"This discovery from Jared and Hang fills a major intellectual gap in our understanding of Earth's elemental cycles, and adds to the diverse ways in which manganese, an abstruse but common transition metal, has shaped the evolution of life on our planet," Caltech geobiology professor Woodward Fischer adds. [via CNN]

Another metal-eating bacteria called Halomonas titanicae was harvested from the remains of the Titanic in 1991 and finally isolated in 2010. The bacteria has eaten away at the famous sunken ship’s iron for more than one hundred years.

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