Beneath Pacific Lies Ancient, Barely Alive Bacteria

Bacteria 100 feet under ocean floor haven't had new food since time of dinosaurs
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2012 7:14 AM CDT
Beneath Pacific Lies Ancient, Barely Alive Bacteria
The tiny organisms have been found eking out an existence in one of the unlikeliest places on Earth.   (?NOAA Photo Library)

Some 100 feet below the most nutrient-starved part of the Pacific Ocean floor, incredibly old life exists. In the most detailed look yet at the lifestyles of "extremophile" bacteria, scientists have determined that the organisms have survived for what could be as long as millions of years solely on whatever nutrients were around when the sediment settled around them, the Washington Post reports. "These communities have not received input or new food since the dinosaurs walked the planet," the lead researcher says. "Those that are left down there are the ones that can deal with the lowest amount of food."

The metabolisms of the deep-sea bacteria are incredibly slow. Scientists say it's impossible to determine whether they reproduce—which could likely happen only once every few thousands years at the fastest—or are many millions of years old, having repaired themselves over the eons. "These organisms live so slowly that when we look at it at our own time scale, it’s like suspended animation,” the lead researcher says. “The main lesson here is that we need to stop looking at life at our own time scale." (More extremophiles stories.)

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