Home Features Best of 2012 Best of 2012 // #83: Life Under the Sea

Best of 2012 // #83: Life Under the Sea

Best of 2012 // #83: Life Under the Sea
horizontal shot of the sand on the ocean floor. no people.

The Ocean floor is a hostile, inhospitable place.  Researchers revealed last May that bacteria live there under severe circumstances by entering a sort of suspended animation, possibly spending the minimum quantity of energy needed to survive.

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Extreme bacteria were discovered under the North Pacific Gyre in a red clay gathered at 100 feet below the sea floor, a vast and nutritionally devoid region sitting approximately in the middle of Japanese-Mexican ocean currents. The microbial sediment is about 86 million years old and most probably the bacteria themselves are just as old. The only obvious source of food all this time? When they were buried, organic matter was deposited with them, which would date back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

The micro-organisms beat their metabolism to near zero in order to compensate for chronic food shortages. Aarhus University geomicrobiologist Hans Røy concluded that each cell utilizes approximately one oxygen molecule per second – roughly 100,000 times less than the metabolism rate of typical surface organisms. The microbes on the ocean floor are also very slow and only replicate once every 100 to 1,000 years.

“There must be a limit to how slowly you can grow…With these cells, we speculate we’re looking at that lower limit.”
– Hans Røy


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