Evidence of Deepest Life on Earth Found Near Mariana Trench

Microbes could be living up to 6 miles under the seafloor
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2017 3:44 PM CDT
Evidence of Deepest Life on Earth Found Near Mariana Trench
A remotely operated vehicle surveys a hydrothermal chimney during a deepwater exploration of the Mariana Trench in 2016.   (NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research via AP)

A team of researchers may have discovered evidence of the deepest life on Earth (and we're not talking college freshmen taking their first philosophy class). According to a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there may be microbes living up to six miles under the seafloor. Researchers used a remotely operated vehicle to retrieve 46 samples of a rock called serpentine from a mud volcano near the Mariana Trench—the deepest place on Earth—southwest of Japan, Phys.org reports. According to Live Science, the serpentine may have originated more than 12 miles under the seafloor before being spewed out by the mud volcano.

While the serpentine didn't contain any actual microbes, researchers did find what National Geographic calls "tantalizing traces of organic material." Due to the particulars of the subduction zone at the Mariana Trench, the researchers believe the microbes could have survived up to six miles below the seafloor before the pressure and heat became too much. They believe the organisms could survive on the methane and hydrogen produced when serpentine forms. "This is another hint at a great, deep biosphere on our planet," study lead Oliver Plümper says. (Near the ocean's deepest spot, scientists heard a 3.5-second symphony.)

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