Deepest Extreme Bacteria Discovered

04 January 2004
Posted by Chris Smith.

Scientists have discovered bacteria in a hole drilled more than 4000 feet deep in volcanic rock in Hawaii, in an environment that could be very similar to the conditions on Mars and other planets. Professor Martin Fisk, from Oregon State University and who led the research, said "the latest discovery is one of the deepest drill holes in which scientists have discovered living organisms encased within volcanic rock". When the researchers first looked at rock samples from the drill hole they saw what looked like signs that the rocks had been 'eaten' or changed by the activity of microbes. Analysing the samples further showed that the rocks also contained the chemical building blocks of life, including DNA and proteins, and then, with a very powerful electron microscope, they saw tiny bacteria-sized shapes. The tiny microbes only seemed to be in the regions of the rocks containing the highest levels of the DNA and protein building blocks. Analysis of the DNA from these microbes has revealed that they are a previously-undiscovered species, but are very similar ones collected from below the sea floor, from deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and from the deepest part of the ocean - the Mariana Trench. The study is important, researchers say, because it provides scientists with another theory about where life may be found on other planets.

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