Found life in one of the most extreme places on the planet


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Although life in the universe appears to be a rather rare and fragile system, its stability is astonishing: tiny microorganisms can survive in the most extreme places on our planet – from many kilometers of ocean depth, where there is no light or heat, to hot volcanic vents. Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) attempted to uncover such an astonishing survivability of extremophile organisms and decided to study the lower part of the oceanic crust, which is one of the last lines of research on life on earth. Organisms found under rocks in the Indian Ocean can prove that the possibilities of life can be even more amazing than we previously thought.

Life was found beneath the surface of the planet

Where do extremophiles live?

Extremophiles are truly unique creatures that can survive in the toughest conditions on the planet. After analyzing rock samples drilled in one of the Indian Ocean's underwater ridges, microbiologists from Tongji University in China were able to reach the geological layer that is normally trapped under the upper basaltic crust of the earth's crust, sciencealert.com claims.

The researchers hid in the coarse, cooled magma at a depth of 750 meters below the ocean floor and discovered rare but diverse microbes that could somehow survive in eternal darkness and enormous pressure. Chroococcidiopsis bacteria, microscopic creatures known for their ability to live in extreme conditions, have become one of these organisms; Pseudomonas bacteria became their neighbors who were able to metabolize energy simultaneously in several ways. Such unusual skills developed in bacteria due to the fact that the conditions beneath the seabed clearly did not offer much comfort and microorganisms had to develop noticeably in order to survive under hostile conditions.

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It is known that some of the detected extremophiles are autotrophs – organisms that themselves produce food with plant-like mechanisms. Although the microbes found are not as self-sufficient compared to their counterparts from the Atacama desert in Chile, analysis of the enzymatic activity and lipid biomarkers showed that some microbes depend on the breakdown of organic substances in order to maintain their vital functions.

The life of bacteria can live without oxygen and enormous pressure

Some microbes feed on the remains of organic molecules, which can be fragments of amino acids and traces of fats that seep with water through cracks in the oceanic crust. They can also accumulate carbon in their cells, while others can extract it from hard molecules called polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

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Although the question of the existence of life in other parts of the discovered geological layer is still open, scientists are optimistic: The discovery of life in the lower regions of the earth's crust could expand our knowledge of the adaptability of extremophiles, which may play a major role in icy satellites of the giant planets of the solar system would play in search of similar organisms. It is known that the conditions of the under-ice oceans in Europe and Enceladus can be very similar to the conditions of the oceans on earth, with the only difference that the blue planet's oceans are not covered by a many kilometers long ice bowl. If so, extremophiles who are able to live in the most incredible places in our world can be the key to pointing out the possible habitability of other worlds in the solar system.

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