Microbes Dine (Very Slowly) on Coal and Shale, 2 km Beneath the Seafloor Project Update uri icon

DCO ID 11121/4389-6814-1962-2773-CC

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  • Scientists drill ever-deeper holes to discover the limits of subsurface life, but, so far, keep finding live microbes at the bottom. During Expedition 337 of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), the crew of the scientific drilling vessel Chikyu set a record for deepest scientific ocean drill hole, reaching 2,466 meters below the seafloor. New studies of microbes living in the coal and shale beds sampled on that trip reveal a slow but still active community eating these ancient buried carbon reserves.

    DCO member Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), with Deep Life Community members Yuki Morono, Akira Ijiri, Tatsuhiko, Hoshino, Fumio Inagaki, (all at JAMSTEC, Japan), and Katherine Dawson and Victoria Orphan (both at California Institute of Technology, USA) measured the activity level and generation times of microbes living in coal and shale beds up to two kilometers below the seafloor. Despite low cell numbers and slow reproduction, the microbes were actively consuming carbon and nitrogen compounds from their environment. The researchers report their findings in a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Read more here.