Scientists revive microbes from 100 million years ago

Scientists revive microbes from 100 million years ago

"But what we found was that the life-extending into the depths of the ocean from the seafloor to the basement rock underlying".

Lead author of the paper, Yuki Morono, a senior scientist at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) explains that the team wanted to know, "whether life could exist in such a nutrient-limited environment or if this was a lifeless zone".

"We knew that there was life in deep sediment near the continents where there's a lot of buried organic matter", said URI Graduate School of Oceanography professor and co-author of the study Steven D'Hondt. The team targeted the South Pacific Gyre off the east coast of Australia, often called an ocean desert because it lacks the nutrients needed to support even most plankton.

In an interaction with AFP, lead author Yuki Morono said that when he found the microbes, he was skeptical whether the findings are a mistake or a failure in their experiment.

Aboard the research drill ship JOIDES Resolution, the team drilled numerous sediment cores 100 meters below the seafloor and almost 6,000 meters below the ocean's surface.

As part of a 2010 expedition onboard the JOIDES Resolution drillship, the crew extracted sediment cores going as deep as 75 meters (250 ft) under the seafloor, which rests just about 6 kilometres (practically 20,000 toes) underneath the ocean's area.

The sediment layers, made up of marine snow (organic material falling from the surface of the sea) and dust, were thought to have been deposited over a period from 13 to 101.5 million years ago.

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The microbes were aerobic - requiring oxygen to live - and oxygen was present in the sediment samples.

The microbes grew, multiplied and displayed diverse metabolic activities.

'We want to understand how or if these ancient microbes evolved. "This study shows that the subseafloor is an excellent location to explore the limits of life on Earth". While a sample of sediment taken from a more oxygen-rich layer of the sea floor might contain more than 100,000 cells per cubic centimetre of mud, Science reports, these deep sea samples might initially only have 1,000 cells in that same volume.

In their research, scientists found oxygen in all of the sedimentary cores drilled by them.

Enlarged image showing revived microbes from sediments 101.5 million years old.

The Daily Galaxy, Andy Johnson, via University of Rhode Island, Nature Communications, and Carl Zimmer.

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