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Scientists have drilled a mile and a half (2.5 kilometers) beneath the seabed and found vast underground forests of "deep life," including microbes that persist for thousands, maybe millions of years, researchers said Monday. Feeding on nothing but the energy from rocks, and existing in a slow-motion, even zombie-like state, previously unknown forms of life are abundant beneath the Earth despite extreme temperatures and pressure. About 70 percent of Earth's bacteria and archaea -- single-celled organisms with no nucleus -- live underground, according to the latest findings of an international collaboration involving hundreds of experts, known as the Deep Carbon Observatory, were released at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington. This "deep life" amounts to between 15 and 23 billion tons of carbon, said the DCO, launched in 2009, as it nears the end of its 10-year mission to reveal Earth's inner secrets. "The deep biosphere of Earth is massive," said Rick Colwell, who teaches astrobiology and oceanography at Oregon State University. He described the team's findings so far as a "very exciting, extreme ecosystem." Among them may be Earth's hottest living creature, Geogemma barossii, a single-celled organism found in hydrothermal vents on the seafloor. Its microscopic cells grow and replicate at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 Celsius). "There is genetic diversity of life below the surface that is at least equal to but perhaps exceeds that which is at the surface and we don't know much about it," Colwell said. - 'Distinct' from surface life - Similar types of strange, deep life microbes might be found on the subsurface of other planets, like Mars.
*The deep biosphere constitutes a world that can be viewed as a sort of "subterranean Galapagos" and includes members of all three domains of life: bacteria and archaea (microbes with no membrane-bound nucleus), and eukarya (microbes or multicellular organisms with cells that contain a nucleus as well as membrane-bound organelles)
*Two types of microbes—bacteria and archaea—dominate Deep Earth. Among them are millions of distinct types, most yet to be discovered or characterized. This so-called microbial "dark matter" dramatically expands our perspective on the tree of life. Deep Life scientists say about 70% of Earth's bacteria and archaea live in the subsurface.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
How the heck did life get down there? Its 1.5 miles down but where does it start? Is there a barrier of no life and then after you get down to a mile or so, life starts again?
It has just always been there! They "live a life" where being consists of converting energy (whatever various chemicals or energies are around); some of them do not "grow" or reproduce! (Which was drilled into us as school children is one of the definitions of life. But since the 70's, they have been discovering extreme examples of life so I think the definitions opened a bit). They are as much a part of the earth as we are! The lurkers in the dark. Or, He who sleeps!! Makes me wonder why we go around thinking we are the dominant species on this planet where there are so many other things around us?
Wonderful, head blowing news! It's like a back-up plan is built in to perpetuate life. We could go boom in nuclear Armageddon and be struck by asteroids and LIFE will bubble up and start over.