Thursday, 29 May 2008

Hot Life-Forms Found a Mile Under Seafloor

Life-forms have been found thriving a mile (1.6 kilometers) beneath the seafloor in hot sediments, a new study says.

The finding doubles the maximum known depth for organisms under the ocean bottom—and may be an encouraging sign for the search for life on other planets.

At 140 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 100 degrees Celsius), the microscopic life forms are probably also the hottest life-forms yet found in seafloor sediments, according to study co-author R. John Parkes, a microbiologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.
The microbes appear to make their livings by metabolizing methane and other hydrocarbons created as the Earth's interior heat warms organic material in the sediments, Parkes said.

"That's what we think they're using as an energy source."

The organisms do not appear simply to have been dormant microbes trapped in the sediments, Parkes added, but instead appeared to be thriving.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, May 29th, 2008.]

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