100-Million-Year-Old Seafloor Bacteria Resuscitated By Scientists
Scientists have discovered that bacteria populations in sediment from below the seafloor can survive more than 100 million years.
Researchers from Japan successfully revived aerobic microbes found in sediment from the seafloor by adding carbon and nitrogen substrates to a sample.
The sediment sample was taken from the South Pacific Gyre, a part of the ocean that has extremely low productivity and few nutrients.
The findings, which were published in Nature Communications, suggest that aerobic microorganisms can survive for millions of years.
‘Our main question was whether life could exist in such a nutrient-limited environment or if this was a lifeless zone,’ the paper’s lead author Yuki Morono told Live Science.
‘And we wanted to know how long the microbes could sustain their life in a near-absence of food,’ Morono added.
Steven D’Hondt, another author of the study, who teaches oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, said researchers were surprised to find that life extends from the seafloor to the underlying rocky basement.
‘We knew that there was life in deep sediment near the continents where there’s a lot of buried organic matter. But what we found was that life extends in the deep ocean from the seafloor all the way to the underlying rocky basement,’ he said.
Samples used in the study were collected 75 metres below the seafloor and approximately 6,000 metres below the ocean’s surface.
D’Hondt told BBC that even in the oldest sediment drilled, with the least amount of food, there were still living organisms that could wake up, grow and multiply.
‘At first, I was sceptical, but we found that up to 99.1% of the microbes in sediment deposited 101.5 million years ago were still alive and were ready to eat,’ Moronoro said.
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