Categories: Sci/Tech

Scientists Believe That Earth is Spitting Out the Deepest Proof of Life Ever Found

These come from somewhere way below the bottom of the sea!

Evidence of microbial life that has existed in the deepest depths of the planet may have just been discovered. Scientists have detected organic matter in the rocks spewed by mud volcanoes near Mariana Trench, Earth’s deepest point.

While humans are on the continuous lookout for alien life forms in other planets and galaxies, the discovery of such organic matter emphasizes the possibility that similarly unknown and bizarre organisms exist within Earth’s deepest recesses.

The study’s lead researcher, Oliver Plümper from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, told National Geographic:

“This is another hint at a great, deep biosphere on our planet.”

“It could be huge or very small, but there is definitely something going on that we don’t understand yet.”

The research team studied rocks hurled up by underwater mud volcanoes.

Source: Oliver Plümper/Utrecht University

The research team performed chemical analysis of the rock fragments spewed into the seafloor by the South Chamorro Seamount, an enormous mud volcano submerged in the western Pacific Ocean. This particular volcano is especially interesting because it lies within the Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc, where the Mariana Trench, Challenger Deep, and the tectonic collision point are located.

The analysis of the rock samples revealed the presence of chemicals that are associated with bacterial wastes, such as lipids, hydrocarbons, and amino acids. Although finding such chemicals are not tantamount to finding actual life forms and for lack of any other explanations, the scientists believe that the spewed up rocks contain the remnants of organisms that have once lived in deeper Earth layers.

Such findings also bring about more questions: Do these organisms still exist? And, just what are they, given their ability to survive despite the lack of light?

Ivan Savov from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and a member of the research team explains that:

“The findings give us new insight into the habitability of the planet.”

“Given the difficulty of obtaining samples from the deep earth, there have not been many opportunities to explore how microbial life can be supported in the absence of photosynthesis. The mantle rocks we studied give us a link between the deep carbon cycle and the surface world.”

On the basis of US Navy Sonar Array Sounding System (SASS) data, South Chamorro Seamount was
recognized as a forearc mud volcano in 1977.

Source: Oceanography

The research team asserts that the source of these organic chemicals remains unknown. However, their calculations suggest that life may possibly exist as far as 6.2 miles or 10 kilometers below the deepest point of the sea floor. Moreover, the temperature below the mud volcanoes and the known temperature limit 122 °C or 251.6°F that can support life must also be considered.

Matthew Schrenk, a geomicrobiologist from the Michigan State University, gave his opinion on the team’s study. He said:

“I think the main take-home of this paper is how this has the potential to place life at some of the deepest environments on the planet.”

“If we’re looking for the depth limits of the biosphere, this could extend it by a lot.”

The research team’s findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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