Like poison for phosphorus

Scientists report finding bacterium that can live off arsenic

By Stephen Ornes, 19:31 PM December 13, 2010

Weird place on Earth Mono Lake in eastern California is where researchers found a type of bacteria that appears to break the rules for how weWeird place on Earth Mono Lake in eastern California is where researchers found a type of bacteria that appears to break the rules for how we think life should survive. Credit: NASA image gallery think life should survive. Credit: NASA image gallery

You may not know phosphorus when you see it, but your body does. Phosphorus is a sturdy workhorse element. In DNA molecules, phosphorus helps support the whole double helix. Within cells, energy shows up as ATP — and the “P” stands for phosphorus (specifically, phosphate, a form of phosphorus).

All life as we know it, in other words, depends on phosphorus. For that reason, scientists around the world were shocked December 2 when a team of scientists announced finding life forms that didn’...

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