Microbes are living more than 500 feet beneath the seafloor in 5 million-year-old sediment, according to new findings by researchers at the University of Delaware and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
The deep biosphere is a fascinating place where one would expect, due to its lack of oxygen and astronomical atmospheric pressures, to find very little sign of life or biological activity. Yet, scientists have recently discovered bacteria, single-celled archaea, and eukaryotes that seem to be thriving in this hostile environment with transcriptional activity that is indicative of their will to survive (queue the “Eye of the Tiger”). The study also showed that these deep biosphere microbes can move, which was previously in question.
On a practical level, the researchers found antibiotic defense mechanisms in these deep sea organisms, possibly representing a “seed bank” for medical advances in antibiotics, antifungals and immunosuppressants.
For more information see Active microbes discovered far beneath seafloor in ancient ocean sediment