Scientists Discover An Ecosystem 2.5 Kilometers Underground That Outweighs All Human Life

Dhir Acharya - Dec 11, 2018

Scientists Discover An Ecosystem 2.5 Kilometers Underground That Outweighs All Human Life

Over 300 researchers have worked together, digging into 2.5 kilometers under the seafloor and found something huge.

Does it sound like science fiction when I tell you there’s an ecosystem underground that is even larger than our entire human life on Earth?

Well, believe it or not, omit the fiction part, it is science only.


Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, living at 2.8km deep

A team of international researchers has drilled down into the seafloor by 2.5 kilometers, they also pulled up microbes from 5-kilometer deep boreholes at hundreds of locations across the Earth. The team then put together all of what they found and came up with a subterranean ecosystem lying under the surface of the Earth.

At such depths, life forms have to struggle with a series of circumstances that we, as usual, consider unbearable to living things. In particular, the ecosystem surviving this deep underground suffers from extremely high heat, extreme pressures as well as little access to nutrient sources, which all together make it harder for life forms to survive, let alone thrive.

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A nematode (eukaryote), living at 1.4km deep

Nevertheless, thanks to the advanced drilling techniques to deep oceans as well as lower DNA sequencing costs, scientists can finally unlock the secrets of how the underworld has lasted.

On Monday, the research team reported their findings to the American Geophysical Union at their annual meeting. The researchers detailed a number of transformational discoveries revealing the sorts of life as well as the amount existing in the underworld. Through a process of compiling data on the diversity and concentration of microbes, the research team was able to do some calculations and found that the volume of the deep biosphere is twice as large that of the entire oceans on Earth and hundreds of times larger than all human beings on this planet.

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Leading this transformational research is the “Deep Life” team from the Deep Carbon Observatory, which consists of more than 300 researchers. The research also said how far we have dug into the subsurface life. However, provided that an approximately 70 percent of total archaea and bacteria live under the Earth’s surface, there’s definitely a whole lot of things we haven’t found out and how they affect our life yet.

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A species of Methanobacterium, living at 2km deep

5 Dco Altiarchaeales Biofilm

Altiarchaeales, found at 30m deep but can live at much greater depths

It is possible that subterranean life heavily affects global biogeochemical cycles, hence has influences on other lives on the surface. But, as stated by Germany’s Marum University biogeochemist Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, we are not even close to detail this effect.

The Deep Carbon Observatory includes a thousand scientists specialized in different areas like physics, chemistry, geology, and biology, which spreads across 52 countries. The organization began the research back in 2009 with the aim at clarifying carbon’s role in the deep Earth.


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