Simons Foundation-Funded Research Reveals That Bacteria in Giant Aquarium Mirror Natural Ocean Microbes
Sea creatures need to go to the bathroom, too, and in aquariums, that creates the task of cleaning the water of waste like ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Good bacteria break down nitrogen compounds at aquariums, and the new study shows that some bacterial communities there emulate those in oceans surprisingly well.
“It was phenomenal. I didn’t expect this,” says Frank Stewart, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences and principal investigator of the study. “The microbial communities are seeded from microbes coming from the animals and their food in an aquarium that does not tap into the ocean. But these looked like natural marine microbial communities.”
That’s happy news for the thousands of sea fauna, including whale sharks, manta rays, and a sea turtle named “Tank,” who live in Georgia Aquarium’s Ocean Voyager, the largest indoor oceanic exhibit in the United States with nearly 24 million liters (6.3 million gallons) of constituted sea water. The researchers analyzed two bacterial communities in the exhibit over time and studied their water cleaning abilities...