Arsenic-breathing life discovered

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Researchers fix the line on an instrument that pumps large volumes of seawater in order to extract DNA. The instrument on the left measures properties such as temperature, salinity and depth and collects smaller samples of seawater. PIX/Noelle Held, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

ARSENIC is a deadly poison for most living things, but new research shows that microorganisms are breathing arsenic in a large area of the Pacific Ocean. A University of Washington team has discovered that an ancient survival strategy is still being used in low-oxygen parts of the marine environment. “Thinking of arsenic as not just a bad guy, but also as beneficial, has reshaped the way that I view the element,” said first author Jaclyn Saunder.

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