Organisms that live within the Earth far exceed all humans, study reveals


  • Scientists have found a rich ecosystem inside the planet.
  • The "deep biosphere" contains mainly bacteria and microbes.
  • The amount of life beneath the surface is hundreds of times greater than the combined weight of all humans.

Much more life exists beneath the Earth than above it, concluded an international team of researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO). In fact, about 16.5 to 25 billion tons microorganisms reside beneath the surface of the planet. That is hundreds of times more than the combined weight of all humans on Earth.

Scientists have obtained their results by observing a multitude of locations around the world, from drilling holes up to 5 km deep, drilling 2.5 km deep into the seabed and obtaining samples of continental mines. Researchers estimate that the overall size of the underground ecosystem is twice the volume of all the oceans on the planet (measuring 2 to 2.3 billion cubic kilometers).

Who are the inhabitants of the so-called "deep biosphere" or "Deep Earth"? Tons of badly lived "zombie" bacteria, microbes called "archaea" and other (often strange) life forms. We're talking about creatures like barbed Altiarchaeales which prefer to reside in sulfur sources or in the single cell Geogemma barossii which make the house inside hydrothermal vents of 121 ° C on the seabed.

Image credit: Greg Wanger (California Institute of Technology, USA) and Gordon Southam (University of Queensland, Australia)

Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator (the purple cells, in the shape of a blue stick, covering spheres of orange carbon) is a bacterium that survives with hydrogen.

"These organisms have probably been on Earth operating for billions of years and driving many of Earth's geochemical systems that have led to the habitable world we now enjoy," said one researcher, Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. , for Reverse.

These tiny life forms usually subsist on very little, such as energy from nearby rocks or gases like hydrogen and methane. However, some may live for thousands of years, existing almost in stasis, except for being moved during major changes such as earthquakes or eruptions.

The study was led by Magnabosco face of the Center for the Flatiron Institute of Computational Biology, New York and included other researchers from the DCO. Deep Carbon Observatory is a collective of 1,200 scientists from 52 countries, working in a wide range of disciplines, from geology and physics to chemistry and microbiology. The 10-year initiative ends next year, while the current study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

"It's like finding a whole new reservoir of life on Earth," said Karen Lloyd, "we are discovering new kinds of life all the time. Much of life is within the Earth and not upon it."

Image courtesy of Gaetan Borgonie (Extreme Life Isyensya, Belgium) and Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada)

Face Magnabosco and colleagues in the process of collecting ancient samples of water at 1.3 km deep inside the Beatrix Gold Mine in South Africa.

The huge amount of life below can be compared to the study of rich ecosystems such as the Galapagos Islands or the Amazon rainforest, scientists said.

You can read the new study published by American Society of Microbiology On here.

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