From Academic Kids

Methanogenesis is the formation of methane by microbes. This is an important and widespread form of microbial metabolism. In most environments, it is the final step in the decomposition of organic matter.

Organisms capable of methogensis are called methanogens. These organisms have no nucleus or membrane-bound organelles (i.e. they are prokaryotes). Methanogens are considered to be a very old group of organisms, being members of the archaebacteria, also known as archaea (depending on what taxonomic system is being used).

Methanogenesis is a form of anaerobic respiration. Methanogens do not use oxygen to breathe. In fact, oxygen is a deadly poison to methanogens, and kills all known methanogens in very tiny concentrations. The terminal electron acceptor in methanogenesis is not oxygen, but carbon. The carbon can occur in a small number of organic compounds, all with low molecular weights. The two best described pathways involve the use of carbon dioxide and acetic acid as terminal electron acceptors:

CO2 + 4 H2 => CH4 + 2H2O (red path below)

CH3COOH => CH4 + CO2 (light green path below)

Missing image

However, methanogenesis has been shown to use carbon from other small organic compounds, such as formic acid, methanol, dimethylsulfide, and methanethiol.

Methanogens cannot exist in the presence of oxygen, so they are only found in environments in which the oxygen has been depleted. Most commonly these are environments experiencing the rapid decay of organic matter, such as wetland soils, the digestive tracts of animals, and aquatic sediments. Methanogenesis also occurs in areas where oxygen and decaying organic matter are both absent, such as the terrestrial deep subsurface, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and oil reservoirs.

Methanogenesis is the final step in the decay of organic matter. During the decay process, electron acceptors (such as oxygen, ferric iron, sulfate, nitrate, and manganese) become depleted, while hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide accumulate. Light organics produced by fermentation also accumulate. During advanced stages of organic decay, all electron acceptors become depleted except carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a product of most catabolic processes, so it is not depleted like other potential electron acceptors.

Only methanogenesis and fermentation can occur in the absence of electron acceptors other than carbon. Fermentation only allows the breakdown of larger organic compounds, and produces small organic compounds. Methanogenesis effectively removes the semi-final products of decay: hydrogen, small organics, and carbon dioxide. Without methanogenesis, a great deal of carbon (in the form of fermentation products) would accumulate in anaerobic environments.

Methanogenesis is useful to humanity. Through methanogenesis, organic waste can be converted to useful methane "biogas." Methanogenesis occurs in the guts of humans and animals. While methanogenesis is not believed to be necessary for human digestion, is it required for the nutrition of ruminant animals, such as cattle and goats. In the rumen (known incorrectly as the "second stomach" possesed by some animals), anaerobic organisms (including methanogens) digest cellulose into forms usable by the animal. Without the microbes of the rumen, cattle cannot survive without being fed a special diet.



Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools