Microbes found half-a-mile beneath the sea floor

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Microbes found half-a-mile beneath the sea floor
Microbes found half-a-mile beneath the sea floor

New Delhi : In the latest discovery, scientists have located the microbes thriving thousands of feet beneath the seafloor. The findings have been published in a recent issue of "Nature". Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) describe how micro-organisms survive in rocks nestled in the lower oceanic crust.

"Organisms eking out an existence far beneath the seafloor live in a hostile environment," says Paraskevi (Vivian) Mara, a WHOI biochemist and one of the lead authors of the paper.

The researchers collected set rock samples from the lower oceanic crust to study and after spending over three months in the research, they have come to the aforementioned conclusion.

Tectonic activity there exposes the lower oceanic crust at the seafloor, “providing convenient access to an otherwise largely inaccessible realm”, the authors write.

"We applied a completely new cocktail of methods to explore these precious samples," says Virginia Edgcomb, a microbiologist at WHOI and the principal investigator of the project.

With the help of isolation of messenger RNA and analysing the expression of genes, the researchers have found the evidence which confirms the presence of micro-organisms under the ocean floor. Some of the tested microbes showed an ability to store carbon in their cells for use in times of shortage. Others indicated they could process nitrogen and sulphur to generate energy, produce Vitamin E and B12, recycle amino acids, and pluck out carbon from the hard-to-break-down compounds called polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

The findings provide a complete picture of carbon cycling by illuminating biological activity deep below the oceans.