The word rusticle is a portmanteau of the words rust and icicle and was coined by Robert Ballard, who first observed them on the wreck of the Titanic in 1986 . Rusticles on the Titanic were the first investigated in 1996 by Roy Cullimore, based at the University of Regina in Canada.
The rusticle consists of up to 35% iron compounds including iron oxides, iron carbonates and iron hydroxides. The remainder of the structure is actually a complex community of symbiotic or mutualistic microbes including bacteria Halomonas titanicae and fungi that use the rusting metal as a source of food, causing microbial corrosion and collectively producing the mineral compounds as waste products and hence forming the rusticle.
Structurally, rusticles contain channels to allow water to flow through, and they seem to be built up in a ring structure similar to the growth rings of a tree. They are very delicate and can easily disintegrate into fine powder on even the slightest touch.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "New species of bacteria found in Titanic 'rusticles'". BBC News. December,6 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11926932. Retrieved January 5, 2011.