Life found deep beneath ocean floor

Technology
US biologists looked for telltale scraps of genetic code in a core drilled deep into the sedimentary floor of the Pacific Ocean off Peru. Picture:

PARIS - Far beyond the caress of sunlight, micro-organisms are flourishing at great depths beneath the ocean floor, scientists reported on Wednesday.

US biologists looked for telltale scraps of genetic code in a core drilled deep into the sedimentary floor of the Pacific Ocean off Peru.

They were hunting for traces of messenger RNA (mRNA), which hints at the presence and even the identity of living cells.

The results revealed a vast ecosystem living at all the sub-sea depths that were tested, from five to 159 metres, says their study.

The microscopic critters included bacteria, primitive single-cell organisms called archaea, and fungi.

The mRNA signatures point to cell proliferation and even movement. Some of the proteins transcribed by the mRNA are for flagella, which are whip-like tails that help cells "swim" through fluid.

"The take-home story there is, if there's room to move, they move," said William Orsi of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which shared the research with the University of Delaware.

The paper is published in the journal Nature.

The invisible population is so huge that climate scientists may have to take it into account when they calculate Earth's "carbon budget" -- the amount of greenhouse gas that is emitted or absorbed by the biosphere and set against emissions made by humans.

"Cells are very abundant there, but they do not have high activity levels," said WHOI microbial ecologist Virginia Edgcomb.

"But it's a huge biosphere, and when you do the math, you see we're talking about a potentially significant contribution.

"Carbon is being turned over, and that has important implications for models of carbon and nitrogen cycling."

-AFP

COMMENTS

     

LATEST STORIES

The race track, situated in Midrand, was sold to a telephone bidder in an auction lasting around one minute and 50 seconds.
The spread of the disease comes as the World Trade Organisation reviews a Russian embargo on EU pork sparked by the outbreak.
Air Algerie has confirmed that it has lost contact with one of its aircraft nearly an hour after takeoff from Burkina Faso on Thursday. The flight was bound for Algiers.

TOP STORIES view all

Manamela likens Julius Malema to Hitler and Floyd Shivambu calls Manamela a liar as Ramaphosa wades in to calm the Parliamentary waters.
No EFF supporters have been arrested for their behaviour in the Gauteng legislature, Gauteng police said on Thursday.
Bank robberies have increased by 33% in the last year and 6 customers have been targeted and killed, says the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric)

NEWS STREAMcloseview all

This is the overlay

eNCA Subscriptions

Close