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Microbiology: Deep-sea volcanic rock teems with microbial life

Communications Biology

April 3, 2020

Microbes live in dense communities within volcanic rock more than 100 metres below the sea floor, according to a paper published in Communications Biology. These findings may imply that microbial life could potentially exist on other planets with similar subsurface environments, such as Mars.

Basaltic lava eruptions at mid-ocean ridges have been creating the upper oceanic crust continuously for 3.8 billion years. Previous research has shown that bacteria and other microorganisms that survive on inorganic energy sources exist within 3.5 and 8-million-year old ridge systems. However, more than 90% of Earth’s oceanic crust is more than 10 million years old, and little is known about microbial life in older basaltic lava.

Basaltic lava eruptions at mid-ocean ridges have been creating the upper oceanic crust continuously for 3.8 billion years. Previous research has shown that bacteria and other microorganisms that survive on inorganic energy sources exist within 3.5 and 8-million-year old ridge systems. However, more than 90% of Earth’s oceanic crust is more than 10 million years old, and little is known about microbial life in older basaltic lava.

doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-0860-1

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