If the primordial atmosphere was reducing, then the first microbial ecosystem was probably composed of anaerobic bacteria. However, despite the presence of an oxygen-rich atmosphere, anaerobic habitats are important, commonplace components of the Earth's present biosphere. The geochemical activities displayed by these anaerobes impact the global cycling of certain elements (e.g., C, N, S, Fe, Mn, etc.). Methane provides an obvious example of how human-enhanced activities on a global scale can influence the content of a "radiative" (i.e., infrared absorbing) trace gas in the atmosphere. Methane can be oxidized by anaerobic bacteria, but this does not appear to support their growth. Acetylene, however, does support such growth. This may form the basis for future exobiological investigations of the atmospheres of anoxic, hydrocarbon-rich planets like Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the latter's satellite Titan. ?? 1989.
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Present-day biogeochemical activities of anaerobic bacteria and their relevance to future exobiological investigations