Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Research Finds Life 1,000 Feet Beneath Ocean Floor

illustration only
by David Stauth
Corvallis - Jan 10, 2003
A new study has discovered an abundance of microbial life deep beneath the ocean floor in ancient basalt that forms part of the Earth's crust, in research that continues to expand the realm of seemingly hostile or remote environments in which living organisms can apparently thrive.

Scientists from Oregon State University and several other institutions conducted the research off the coast of Oregon near a sea-floor spreading center on the Juan de Fuca Ridge.

The findings will be published Friday in the journal Science.

In 3.5 million-year-old crust almost 1,000 feet beneath the bottom of the ocean, researchers found moderately hot water moving through the heavily-fractured basalt. The water was depleted in sulfate and greatly enriched with ammonium, suggesting biological activity in a high-pressure, undersea location far from the types of carbon or energy sources upon which most life on Earth is based.

It was one of the most precise biological samplings ever taken from deep under the ocean floor, scientists say.

"This is one of the best views we've ever had of this difficult-to-reach location in the Earth's crust and the life forms that live in it," said Michael Rappe, a research associate at OSU. "Until now we knew practically nothing about the biology of areas such as this, but we found about the same amount of bacteria in that water as you might find in surrounding seawater in the ocean. It was abundant."

According to Steve Giovannoni, an OSU professor of microbiology and one of the co-authors of the publication, the work represented a highly complicated "plumbing job," among other things. It took advantage of an existing hole and pipe casing that had been drilled previously in that area by the Ocean Drilling Program, through about 825 feet of sedimentary deposits on the ocean floor and another 175 feet of basalt, or hardened lava about 3.5 million years old.

Using the existing casing, scientists were able to fit an experimental seal and deliver to the seafloor, for testing and characterization, the crustal fluids from far below.

"People have wondered for a long time what types of organisms might live within Earth's crust," Giovannoni said. "This has given us one of the best looks we've ever had at that environment."

The researchers found organisms apparently growing without the need to consume organic molecules, as does most life on Earth. Instead, they processed carbon dioxide and inorganic molecules such as sulfide or hydrogen.

DNA analysis of these microbes suggested they are closely related to known sulfate and nitrate "reducers" that are common in other environments. The level of biological activity was sufficiently high that ammonia levels in the subsurface samples were 142 times higher than those in nearby seawater.

"As more research such as this is done, we'll probably continue to be surprised at just how far down we can find life within the Earth, and the many different environments under which it's able to exist," Rappe said.

The deep ocean crust, the researchers said, is an immense biosphere in its own right that covers most of the Earth.

Related Links
Oregon State University
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Researchers Uncover Extreme Lake
Washington - Dec 18, 2002
NSF-supported researchers drilling into Lake Vida, an Antarctic "ice-block" lake, have found the lake isn't really an ice block at all. In the December 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reveals that Antarctic Lake Vida may represent a previously unknown ecosystem, a frigid, "ice-sealed," lake that contains the thickest non-glacial lake ice cover on Earth and water seven times saltier than seawater.

Microbes May Survive 50 Miles Down
Moffett Field - Feb 25, 2002
Until now, scientists thought that only specially adapted organisms they call extremophiles could exist in seemingly intolerable environments such as high-pressure, high-temperature oceanic hydrothermal vents or in the ice sheets of Antarctica.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.