The most abundant plankton in the world, known as SAR11 or pelagibacterales, have recently been found to be pumping out huge amounts of sulfur gases. These sulfur gases play important roles in our Earth’s atmosphere.
The first gas, dimethylsulfide (DMS), is recognizable as the smell of the sea. In the atmosphere, DMS oxidizes into sulfuric acid which can seed cloud formation and alter the heating of the Earth. The second gas, methanethiol, smells like leaking gas lines and it is used to produce plastics and pesticides.
The discovery of these gases being emitted from plankton surprised scientists because they did not know that plankton were capable of releasing such massive quantities of gas until now. This is concerning, especially in the case of the DMS, because it could potentially alter climate change in the future.