Marine microorganisms make a meal of oil

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Mar;4(3):173-82. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1348.


Hundreds of millions of litres of petroleum enter the environment from both natural and anthropogenic sources every year. The input from natural marine oil seeps alone would be enough to cover all of the world's oceans in a layer of oil 20 molecules thick. That the globe is not swamped with oil is testament to the efficiency and versatility of the networks of microorganisms that degrade hydrocarbons, some of which have recently begun to reveal the secrets of when and how they exploit hydrocarbons as a source of carbon and energy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteriophages / metabolism
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Ecology
  • Eukaryota / metabolism
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Halomonadaceae / genetics
  • Halomonadaceae / physiology
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism
  • Marine Biology*
  • Petroleum / metabolism*
  • Water Pollution, Chemical*


  • Hydrocarbons
  • Petroleum