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Degradation of tarballs using associated bacterial consortia


Tarballs are semi-solid blobs of crude-oil formed in marine environment. Microbial degradation of tarballs is poorly understood, though there are indications that tarball-associated microbes can degrade recalcitrant hydrocarbons present in tarballs. In this study, 38 tarball-associated bacteria from Betul beach, Goa, India were initially screened for crude oil degradation. Based on preliminary studies and literature survey, four bacterial strains, Alcanivorax sp. Betul-O, Marinobacter sp. Betul-26, Pseudomonas sp. Betul-14, and Pseudomonas sp. Betul-M were selected for bacterial consortia preparation. Eleven bacterial consortia were prepared and studied for degradation of n-alkanes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs) of tarballs based on gravimetric and GC–MS–MS analyses. The bacterial consortia depleted 53.69–97.78% and 22.78–61.98% of n-alkanes and PAH compounds, respectively, within 45 days. Bacterial consortium comprising Pseudomonas sp. Betul-14, Pseudomonas sp. Betul-M, and Alcanivorax sp. Betul-O exhibited promising tarball degradation abilities with 97.78% and 61.98% degradation of n-alkanes and PAH, respectively, within 45 days. Further research is required to obtain insights into degradation products and possible pathways involved.

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The Director, CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India is thanked for providing all the lab facilities and funds to carry out this work. The Head of Biological Oceanography Division is thanked for his support and encouragement. Mr. R. Sreepada and Dr. Mamatha S.S. are thanked for their support in lab work. Ms. Sonam Pirankar and Mr. Aatish Fatefarkar are thanked for their assistance in work. VLS is thankful to the University Grant Commission (UGC, India) for providing her research fellowship. This has NIO contribution number 6500.

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VLS, SV, BDS conceived the idea. All authors conducted experiments. VLS, SV and BDS analysed the results. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to V. Suneel or Belle Damodara Shenoy.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Shinde, V.L., Suneel, V., Rathore, C. et al. Degradation of tarballs using associated bacterial consortia. 3 Biotech 10, 109 (2020).

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  • Alkanes
  • Biodegradation
  • Crude oil
  • Oil pollution
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)