[permaculture] Tons of Life Found Deep Within Earth's Surface

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Thu Dec 13 08:30:16 EST 2018

Tons of Life Found Deep Within Earth's Surface

Tons of Life Found Deep Within Earth's Surface
This unidentified nematode (*Poikilolaimus sp.*) from Kopanang gold mine in
South Africa, lives 0.86 miles (1.4 kilometers) below the surface of the
Earth.  Gaetan Borgonie (Extreme Life Isyensya, Belgium)

An international group of scientists is closing in on the end of a 10-year
study that has uncovered secrets of "deep life,"
<https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-12/tca-lid120318.php> a
stunningly diverse population of microscopic organisms miles inside Earth's
surface. Some of those organisms live off little other than the energy of
surrounding rocks — and survive in temperatures hotter than boiling water.

Undertaken by some 1,000 scientists, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO)
<https://deepcarbon.net/> project aims "to understand the quantities,
movements, forms and origins of carbon inside Earth," according to the
website. Carbon is essential to life. The DCO estimates that the amount of
carbon underneath the surface is hundreds of times more than all the carbon
in humans.

"A decade ago, we had no idea that the rocks beneath our feet could be so
vastly inhabited," Isabelle Daniel, a geobiologist from the University of
Lyon 1 in France, said in a press statement
"Experimental investigations told us that microbes could potentially
survive to great depth; at that time, we had no evidence, and this has
become real 10 years later. This is simply fascinating and will surely
foster enthusiasm to look for the biotic-abiotic fringe on Earth and

During the course of their studies, scientists drilled more than 1.5 miles
(2.5 kilometers) into the sea floor, captured samples from mines and
boreholes from depths more than 3.1 miles (5 kilometers), and took the data
from these hundreds of sites to get an idea of what an ecosystem in
subterranean rock within the surface of Earth looks like. The biosphere
they've uncovered is thought to be twice the volume of all the oceans.

This living world in the rock underneath our world consists of three types
of life: two microbes
that dominate the underground world — archaea (microbes with no
membrane-bound nucleus) and eukarya (microbes or multicellular organisms
with cells that contain a nucleus as well as membrane-bound structures
within a cell) — and bacteria
Scientists report millions of distinct types of life there, most as-yet
discovered or named.
*Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator* (the purplish rod-shaped cells) is a
species of bacteria that survives on hydrogen. Scientists found it living
in a fluid- and gas-filled well 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers) beneath Earth's
surface at Mponeng Gold Mine near Johannesburg, South Africa.
Greg Wanger (California Institute of Technology, USA) and Gordon Southam
(The University of Queensland, Australia)

This new world underneath the surface may even be more diverse than life on
Earth. Yet these microbes are nothing like life on Earth. Many have life
cycles measured in geologic terms.

The implications of these findings is wide-ranging. These organisms show
they can live and thrive in highly pressurized environments, with few
nutrients and in temperatures that would kill organisms on the surface.
They may now give us clues about the possibility of life in other areas. Or
on other planets.

"I think it's probably reasonable to assume that the subsurface of other
planets and their moons are habitable," Rick Colwell, a microbiologist from
Oregon State University, told the BBC
<https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46502570>, "especially since
we've seen here on Earth that organisms can function far away from sunlight
using the energy provided directly from the rocks deep underground."

For all the DCO has discovered, of course, many questions still remain. How
does this "deep life" spread through rock? Is this where life began on Earth
percolating up toward the sun? Or is it the other way around? Without
nutrients, where do these life forms get their energy?

The studies present a whole new world of questions, for a whole new world
underneath the surface of the planet.

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