The Atlantic

The Mussels That Eat Oil

With help from bacteria, these shellfish can thrive on volcanoes made of asphalt.
Source: NOAA

In 2004, a team of geologists discovered something extraordinary while exploring the Gulf of Mexico. They were searching for sites where oil and gas seep out of the ocean floor, but instead, two miles below the ocean’s surface, they found a field of dormant black volcanoes. And unlike typical volcanoes that spew out molten rock, these had once belched asphalt. They looked like they had been fashioned from the same stuff used to pave highways, because that’s exactly what they were. The team named one of them Chapapote after the Aztec word

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
The U.S.-India Relationship Is Bigger Than Trump and Modi
Will the strategic bet that America and India have made on each other deliver on its full potential?
The Atlantic5 min read
Voters Really Care About Climate Change
For Democrats, climate change is now one of the two most important issues in politics, according to a new poll.
The Atlantic4 min read
The Message of Grimes’s Dark Masterpiece
The singer’s new album, Miss Anthropocene, combines angsty music styles with a supposedly environmental purpose—but mostly to indulge the thrill of submission.