Published: Jan 06, 2011 8:19 PM EST
Updated: Jan 06, 2011 5:19 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - A sudden bloom of bacteria after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill helped clean up the methane gas that was also released into the Gulf of Mexico, according to a new report.

"They did a good job on it and that was much earlier than expected," said John Kessler, a chemical oceanographer at Texas A&M University.

Earlier studies found that the oil-eating bacteria got a jump start by consuming the natural gases ethane and propane. A new report by Kessler and colleagues in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science adds methane to that list, potentially good news for environmentalists concerned about periodic natural methane releases.

Occasionally large volumes of methane are released along the sea floor through seeps or vents.

The discovery that bacteria rose to the occasion during the Gulf oil spill indicates they are also likely to do so when natural methane releases occur, researchers said. Large releases of methane can disrupt ocean chemistry and also can affect the atmosphere.

--- Online: Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/

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