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Life Confirmed At Extreme Depths

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the you'll-need-a-serious-deodorant dept.

Science 273

SEWilco writes "A few years ago the life forms around deep-ocean thermal vents were a surprise. Now ancient bacteria alive in rock 2 miles down have been found. The story is in the San Francisco Chronicle. It is also at Nature.Com, but that server is already rejecting connects. Other bacteria survived frozen in the pressures of an ocean 100 miles deep. This increases the known limits of where life can exist on any planet. Thomas Gold undoubtedly is not surprised at hot, deep bacteria living on hydrogen."

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raah, fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848170)


just when you thought (-1, Offtopic)

emkman (467368) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848182)

you were the first post, they found my first post, way at the bottom of the ocean in a rock, and its even older.

Hello crackhead moderators.... (-1)

cut-N-paste Troll (584533) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848184)

The Egyptians did not build that stuff, the Vikings did.

fucking morons.

IN SOIVET RUSIA (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848196)

bacteria lives in rocks!!

Re:IN SOIVET RUSIA (2, Redundant)

ekrout (139379) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848830)

In Soviet Russia, funny fifteen years ago stopped being this joke!!!

Life (5, Funny)

Violet Null (452694) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848203)

It is also at Nature.Com, but that server is already rejecting connects.

Life always finds a way to survive. Now, evolution has provided us with a website that can anticipate and avoid the slashdot effect.

Re:Life (1)

ethanms (319039) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848274)

Whatever Jurassic Park...

100 miles deep?! (2, Insightful)

roseblood (631824) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848215)

"Other bacteria survived frozen in the pressures of an ocean 100 miles deep. "

Where on earth is there a 100 mile deep ocean? Is our atmosphere even 100 miles deep?

Re:100 miles deep?! (1)

roseblood (631824) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848297)

I couldn't find any 100 mile deep ocean, but I guess our atmosphere [] is about 300 feet deep.

Re:100 miles deep?! (1)

roseblood (631824) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848333)

Christ. 300 MILES. Damned submit and preview buttons are too close for my taste.

20000 Leagues under the Sea (1)

screwthemoderators (590476) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848530)

This reminds me of geeky factiod. Jules Verne wrote "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" but a league is about 3.45 miles, making the setting 69,000 nautical miles under the sea! "League" is inappropriate anyways, because ocean depth is measured differently than nautical distance.

Re:20000 Leagues under the Sea (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848665)

the 20,000 leagues in the title refers to the HORIZONTAL distance travelled by the submarine while it was submerged. not the depth that the vessel was submerged to.

Re:20000 Leagues under the Sea (2)

mithras the prophet (579978) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848783)

As far as I know, the standard explanation is that Verne was referring to how far the submarine travelled, whilst "under the Sea", rather than being at a depth of 20,000 leagues.

Re:100 miles deep?! (1)

n1ywb (555767) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848666)

The pressure of an ocean 100 miles deep is probably in a lab inside of a pressure chamber.

Re:100 miles deep?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848698)

it's an analogy. the pressure is equivalent to that at the bottom of a 100 mile deep ocean. i guess whoever was making the analogy is making allusions to europa and the implications this discovery has for life there.

Re:100 miles deep?! (1)

DeafDumbBlind (264205) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848852)

If I remember correctly, it's about 30 feet per atmoshere of pressure.
That's a lot of pressure.

100 miles deep?? Explained! (5, Informative)

KarMannJRO (616677) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848219)

OK, before we all jump on that "ocean 100 miles deep" claim (as I was about to do), here's the actual quote from the article:

Other bacteria, frozen into chunks of ice in a Washington laboratory, have thrived inside a high-pressure container and went right on reproducing after they were exposed to pressures equivalent to life at the bottom of an ocean 100 miles deep.

So they aren't really claiming to have found oceans 100 miles deep.

Re:100 miles deep?? Explained! (5, Interesting)

John Penix (562591) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848338)

It's important to note btw, for those who haven't caught this detail, that the subterranean bacteria in question derive energy from chemicals (chemosynthesis) rather than from sunglight (photosynthesis). This discovery in itself was breathtaking, as it means that we might have a way of "farming" even if the sky is blotted out for years, i.e. nuclear winter or ELE (extinction event like comet impact).

Chemosynthesis resources (5, Informative)

JUNIS KANUNI (558719) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848460)

Re:Chemosynthesis resources (1, Offtopic)

Alsee (515537) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848838)

Great Breakdown of Chemosynthesis [].
Quick image summary of chemosynthesis for the bored [].

Further topics for the bored [] .


Even if the sky is blotted out for years... (1)

screwthemoderators (590476) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848650)

...and researchers for the Bush White House have determined that in such an event, the American economy will be able to withstand and recover from such an event ; ) . There has actually been "serious" research on how the American economy will react to climate changes predicted by some models of "Global Warming" So buy some sunscreen and smile, America!

Re:100 miles deep?? Explained! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848682)

Unfortunately you probably not going to be able to use it as food as it is outside the 4 major food groups. We have to rely on something that is a bit higher on the food chain that can digest these bacteria.

Re:100 miles deep?? Explained! (2, Funny)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848845)

More subterranean bacteria au gratin, honey?

Yes, Please!

Whoa there. This was "discovered" in the 70's (0, Offtopic)

MadCow-ard (330423) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848881)

Whoa there. Yes it was groundbreaking in the 70's. This has been a standard in Oceanographic texts since before I started. Sure its deeper than expected, but the overall picture is an extension of existing theory, not something new. And as far as farming... Hydrogen sulfide is poisonous and the vent temperatures are hot enough to melt the first thermometers used to measure them, so its not as easy as potatoes. And I would have to look at the bacterial production rates again, but I would guess that the entire global vent systems would not support much of a human population, let alone its appetite.

Re:100 miles deep?? Explained! (1)

Darth Hubris (26923) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848849)

The importnace of this being that Jupiter's moon Europa may have oceans 100 miles deep, probably has thermal vents, and [cross your fingers] at least bacterial life.

Ack, another one... (4, Interesting)

cornjchob (514035) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848220)

OK, let me get this out right now: OK, we have life way way down in our earth. That only proves that life as we know it can exist in that extreme of an environment. Comparing that to other planet's life forms or using that as evidence to further any point of extra terrestrial life is very much redundant; life elsewhere could be (and probably is) completely different from ours. Maybe no DNA. maybe no amino acids. Maybe their amino acids are left handed, who knows. But point being: this proves nothing that wasn't proven to any thinking person before.

Re:Ack, another one... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848260)

this proves nothing that wasn't proven to any thinking person before.

Except, of course, that life has been found so deep in the earth.

Re:Ack, another one... (4, Interesting)

bahwi (43111) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848358)

Thank you. I'm glad someone said it! I think the big question should be did the life form down there in that extreme, or did it form up here in what we consider 'habitable' and evolve to survive down at those depths? I'm pretty sure the answer is that life formed in more what we consider to be 'habitable' and did not form down there, but I think it should also be studied so we know for sure. If we could prove that life could form in those circumstances. I think that would change some thinking.

Than again, I'm not a biologist (IANAB) nor do I keep up with the news and happenings, although I agree this is definately nerd news. =)

Re:Ack, another one... (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848674)

I thought that a computer modle was done back in the day showing that lefthanded ammeno acids could not support life in the form we know it.

"Its life, Jim, but not as we know it." (1)

n1ywb (555767) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848781)

I think the main point is that life in general isn't as inherantly fragile as we may have thought.

But off the subject, it's entirely possible and IMHO relatively likely for there to exist somewhere a very basic alien life form which is quite similar to our basic life forms. All of the chemicals found on earth are found elsewhere, and could quite possibly come together in a similar way. Especially when you consider the incredible variety of life, even single celled organisms. And if you add in things like viri, and even simpler things like Mad Cow Disease, the number of different types of simple life forms found here on earth is pretty big.

But I honestly think it probably is more likely that any life we discover out there is probably radically different from the life found on Earth, to the point where we may not even recognize it as life.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848245)

No ocean is that deep! The deepest point is 11km.

Um, the Mariana Trench? 24 miles deep? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848439)

10 goto school
20 learn something

Re:Um, the Mariana Trench? 24 miles deep? (5, Informative)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848639)

Here's the pertinent quote from ExtremeScience [] :
Challenger Deep got its name from the British survey ship Challenger II, which pinpointed the deep water off the Marianas Islands in 1951. Then in 1960, the US Navy sent the Trieste (a submersible - a mini-submarine designed to go really deep) down into the depths of the Marianas trench to see just how far they would go. They touched bottom at 35,813 feet. That means, while they were parked on the bottom in the bathyscaphe, there were almost seven miles of water over their heads!

The complete write up is here. [] The Mariana Trench is a fairly large subduction feature; the Challenger Deep being the deepest point.

BTW, 35,813 / 5,280 = 6.7827 miles (which would be somewhat shy of 24).

How low? (3, Funny)

r_j_prahad (309298) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848253)

"Life Confirmed At Extreme Depths"

For some reason I thought this story was going to be about Slashdot.

Re:How low? (1, Offtopic)

neurostar (578917) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848403)

No, no, no. That would be life in the dark. (Like more readers are)

Life can be hardy... (4, Interesting)

acehole (174372) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848259)

It's amazing how basic lifeforms can adapt and evolve to thier surroundings. There is also a small cave in the area around the arctic that scientists found that was esentially a bubble inside solid rock, it was found by accident.

It had inside it a small ecosystem with insect life that had evolved completely isolated from the outside world. None of the species had eyes because of the pitch black inside the bubble. Nor did they have any coloring at all, they were all translucent. Unfortunatly I only saw this on a documentry, but the transcript is online.

Link is here []

Re:Life can be hardy... (2, Informative)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848485)

You obviously didn't read the story you linked to. If you had, you would have seen:
NARRATOR: For biologists the challenge is how to study this lost world. They need samples to analyse, but there are no samples from Lake Vostok, so they can only speculate about what happened to the life after the lake iced over.

CYNAN ELLIS-EVANS: The plants would have disappeared very quickly and once the plants went you lost a major source of food supply for the more complex animals, so once, the plants would disappear the, the animals would follow soon after and once they were gone all that would be left in the lake would be the microbial populations and even they would then start to thin down to the organisms that could make the best of the limited resources left.

NARRATOR: So if anything has survived in Lake Vostok it will be microbes.

Summary for the facts, for those who don't remember this from the last time it popped up on Slashdot:

There is a large lake under the Antarctic icepack. There is considerable debate on whether to drill through 4 miles of ice to get samples of the ancient water, and possibly find ancient bacteria. The anti-drilling side points out that any drilling raises the possibility of contamination with modern bacteria.

Re:Life can be hardy... (1)

kliment (627259) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848550)

Apparently you did not read the article either. It is clearly mentioned that a situation equivalent to this (evolution in completely isolated biosystem) was found under a dumpsite in Romania, when an artificial tunnel happened to link with it. It is completely seperate from lake Vostok, only in the same article

Re:Life can be hardy... (3, Informative)

acehole (174372) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848573)

Perhaps *you* should have read the article a bit more, I never said it was in Lake Vostok, read a little further into the article and you would see:

DR SERBAN SARBU (Cave Biologist): We very soon realised that in fact this cave had never had an entrance, a natural entrance, was never opened to the surface and this artificial shaft that we descended was the only possible access into the system.

NARRATOR: It was like a bubble trapped in rock. Until it was broken into nothing from the surface had got into it, perhaps for millions of years. What they had found was a world as dark and isolated as Lake Vostok. To begin with they found nothing out of the ordinary, just a series of cramped tunnels. But when they arrived at a small pool there was a surprise in store for them.

SERBAN SARBU: The first surprise that I experienced was that we found a lot of animals present and when I say animals I think of spiders, centipedes, wood lice.

It wasnt in Vostok, it was in Romania.

Re:Life can be hardy... (3, Informative)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848711)

Romania is a long way from the Arctic.

Cave critters without eyes are not new. The new thing in this was that there were hydrogen sulfide eating bacteria which formed the base of the food chain.

NARRATOR: Serban thought that the layer of scum must hold the key to the cave's ecosystem. Eventually he realised that it was made up of microbes. The scum was a thick microbial mat. This was the base of the food chain, but what were the microbes living on? When Serban analysed the microbes, he discovered that in the absence of sunlight they were using hydrogen sulphide as their energy source. The microbes were extracting energy from chemicals in the water. It's a process known as chemosynthesis The water in the cave is rich in hydrogen sulphide which comes from hot springs welling up from deep within the Earth.
Pity you didn't put that in your original post. It would have been quite interesting. Consider this: the same article has speculation that Lake Vostak may have been a rift valley. That might imply the same sort of hot springs which made the ecosystem in Romania possible.

So you read the article, but didn't summarize it well enough for me to be able to tell what your point was. Sorry for the unjustified criticism.

Re:Life can be hardy... (2, Funny)

kliment (627259) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848514)

I read the article, and it flashed back a memory from a book I read long ago.

Am I the only one that sees the link between that bbc article and Lovecraft's Mountains of Madness?

Giant cavity beneath ice in the middle of antarctica, surrounded by mountain ranges, and previously unknown lifeforms, millions of years old, evolved separately from the life on the rest of the planet. How long until we meet the Elders?
I recommend the book to everyone, really good one.

Um, 100s of miles? (1, Insightful)

EraseEraseMe (167638) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848275)

Other bacteria survived frozen in the pressures of an ocean 100 miles deep

I was under the impression that the deepest part of the ocean, the Marianas trench in the Pacific ocean was 'only' 11033 metres below sea level; rougly 6-7 miles deep..Nowhere near the 100 miles in this writeup. Was this explained better in the article?

Re:Um, 100s of miles? (5, Funny)

ultramk (470198) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848365)


-- Other bacteria, frozen into chunks of ice in a Washington laboratory, have thrived inside a high-pressure container and went right on reproducing after they were exposed to pressures equivalent to life at the bottom of an ocean 100 miles deep.

Oh, right. Forgot that no one reads the article anymore...


Re:Um, 100s of miles? (2)

EraseEraseMe (167638) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848734)

Oh, right. Forgot that no one reads the article anymore...

Well, it would be easy to RTFA if Slashdot wouldn't absolutely destroy any chance of actually READING the article. Therefore, I had two options, comment on the submission text or wait for someone to post the text of the original article. Guess what? I went with the submission text because I (incorrectly) assumed that the submitter had done some basic fact-checking before it had been submitted.

Please, PLEASE submitters....I know you get excited when you come across an article you can submit to Slashdot, but please take the time to actually fact-check your submission. In all likelihood, the page/server it's hosted on will disappear within 5 minutes of being posted.

Are you sure it was... (-1, Troll)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848278)

in rock?

If it was under a rock, it would most probably be a Microsoft test center for lower life forms - instead of from...

Next... (1, Funny)

frozencesium (591780) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848283)

now maybe they'll find life on uranus...

ok, not funny, but it had to be said.

truly amazing. next thing you know, they will discover a silicon based life form (besides pamala anderson), and call in mulder and scully...wait...i already saw that episode...


Re:Next... (1, Offtopic)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848866)

now maybe they'll find life on uranus...

Yes, and hot deep life no less.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848291)

The importance of this.. (3, Interesting)

mao che minh (611166) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848318)

This means that life as we know it has an even greater potential to be living in some of the extreme enviornments found on nearby planets. Not so much a tie-in or comparison to possible life elsewhere in the universe as it is a statement that Earth life and life like it is proven to be this much more resilient.

Re:The importance of this.. (2, Interesting)

cmorriss (471077) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848438)

What's important to remember here is that there is a difference between being able to survive and being able to form. Sure, life can adapt to living in extreme environments, but I doubt very much that these environments are condusive to forming an actual life form.

Humans are natually Bigots (3, Interesting)

bpd1069 (57573) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848320)

No this isn't flamebait...

Humans (which I am one) tend to view the world through a very narrow perspective. We see things on the terms which we live within. Our existance is within a small thin band of possible environments.

I mean does anyone seriously think that all that oil in the ground came from prehistoric vegetation?? This rock we call home is literally infested with life to the core (well to the mantle atleast).

With this new realization, is there any doubt that there exists life on other planets?

Re:Humans are natually Bigots (1)

nich37ways (553075) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848450)

I don't think if you go down to a basic level I am sure most people would have to agree that there is almost definetly life on other planets. The real argument that exists is wheter or not their is intelligent life on other planets.


Re:Humans are natually Bigots (5, Funny)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848481)

Humans (which I am one)

You KNOW you're hanging out at the wrong forum when someone has to preface their comment with THAT.

Jumping to conclusions (2)

Gerry Gleason (609985) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848653)

With this new realization, is there any doubt that there exists life on other planets?

Yes, there is still plenty of doubt. Nothing about this suggests an extraterestrial origin of any life that has been found. We just don't know if there was some unique accident that started it all, or if the earth was infected from an outside source.

It is an interesting data point, and it certainly is suggestive, particularly if we don't find any variety of simple life forms in any of the "extreme" environments in the solar system. Logically, the emergence of life is a pretty amazing thing, and I wouldn't believe it was even possible if we, ourselves, were not an existence proof.

On the level of pure speculation, it seems awefully strange for the origin of life to be a unique event in the universe, so either we are not alone, or there is some sort of multi-worlds thing going on and we are in one of the lucky worlds where life got started.

Of course, the other problem in trying to meet the neighbors is that they might be so out of scale with us that we wouldn't know they exist even of we overlapped in physical range.

Sweet! (0, Redundant)

mschoolbus (627182) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848341)

But honestly... Why does anyone really care?

Not news... (2, Funny)

YahoKa (577942) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848343)

I am alive in the piles miles and miles deep of dirty clothes and dishes in my room...

I thought this... (2, Redundant)

craenor (623901) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848352)

Was talking about life being found at /.

Then I realized they weren't talking about depths of depravity...oh well.

Not really new. (2)

FreeLinux (555387) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848356)

As alluded to in Thomas Gold's report from 1992, bacteria are very commonly found at extreme depths in the earth, by oil drilling operations. As has been the case for several years.

I think the most news worth portion of this article is the fact that this guy has acquired a multimillion dollar NASA grant, not that he has found anything new.

Oilfields auto-replenishing (1, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848362)

Who's the guy that had the theory that oil in the ground is NOT old dinosaurs, but actually bacteria in the hot ground? And that we will never run out of oil because it will replenish itself?

I would imagine that theory gets some boosting from this.

Re:Oilfields auto-replenishing (1)

bsane (148894) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848489)

oil in the ground is NOT old dinosaurs... ...never run out of oil because it will replenish itself

My friend (a Petroleum Engineer...) is fairly convinced of this, but I still haven't heard or seen anything mainstream about it.

Re:Oilfields auto-replenishing (2)

mao che minh (611166) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848562)

Chemical analyzation and dating procedures prove otherwise (that oil is not recently decayed bacterial life, but rather long dead plant life and other things).

Besides, dead bacteria don't hold nearly enough energy potential. Dead plants, with all of that trapped sunlight, do.

Oilfields auto-replenishing? Do the Math (1)

MadCow-ard (330423) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848623)

Even if the oil is being created and is not a classic finite source, it is not being utilized in a proportion that any bacteria would be able to compete with.
In 1900, the world consumed less than a half million barrels of oil per day (each barrel contains 42 gallons), 80 percent supplied by the United States. By 2000, the world was consuming 67 million barrels per day, and the U.S. was producing only about one-tenth of the total -- less than half its own requirements.
Can you really expect that the consumption would ever be realistically matched by production? I would propose that even if this assumption of bacterial production is true, the rate of consumption is reckless.

2010 (1)

kavau (554682) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848370)

Reminds me of Arthur J. Clarke's "2010", where he introduces life forms, by far more complex than bacteria, living far below the eternal ice of Jupiter's moon Europa. These creatures thrive near volcanic fissures that provide the necessary warmth. And their metabolism is sulfur-based, if I recall correctly. Which leads me to a question for the microbiologists here: does sulfur-based life exist on earth? Do these deep-sea bacteria have a sulfur-based metabolism, or an oxigen-based one like us?

Re:2010 (1)

MadCow-ard (330423) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848740)

No, not really. They are using oxigen the way we do, but they are using Chemosynthesis instead of Photosynthesis for their primary production. They are using the reduction of Hydrogen sulfides as their energy source to drive atp synthesis.

This is normally driven by photoreduction of the chlorophyll molecule in a photosynthetic system. This is a rough draft, as its been a while since I went over it.

Here's the text if the link is down: (5, Informative)

nekdut (74793) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848392)

American Geophysical Union Meeting,
San Francisco, December, 2002

Goldmine yields clues for life on Mars
Radioactive bacteria live deep in the Earth - and maybe elsewhere.
9 December 2002

Mine dwelling bacteria may be similar to the first life on Earth
© GettyImages

There are tiny creatures living off radiation in ancient pockets of water several kilometres beneath the Earth's surface, say researchers.

The microbes seem to have been isolated for hundreds of millions of years. Similar conditions might exist beneath the surface of Mars.

"Anywhere you have a crust with uranium and water in it, you have the potential for life," microbiologist Tullis Onstott, of Princeton University, New Jersey, told this week's American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

As you go deeper, the chemicals essential for normal life - organic matter and oxygen - disappear. And you get crushed and cooked, as temperature and pressure rise.

Microbes have been found a kilometre or so beneath the Earth's surface before. But cost and contamination with shallower bugs have hindered scientists looking deeper for life.

Working with miners in the world's deepest holes - 3.5 kilometre-deep South African goldmines - Onstott and his colleagues found hot water rich in bacteria.

The water is loaded with dissolved hydrogen gas, at a concentration up to a hundred million times higher than normal. Radioactive isotopes in the water show that the gas could only have formed by radioactive energy from surrounding uranium deposits splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen, argues Onstott.

Researchers had speculated that bacteria might make hydrogen in this way, but it has never been seen before. "It's a completely novel system for supporting life," says John Baross, who studies deep-sea bacteria at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The mine-dwelling bacteria are hard to grow in the lab. Genetic evidence suggests that some of the microbes are related to a species called Pyrococcus abyssi, which lives in hot, deep-sea vents.

These bacteria are thought to be similar to the first life on Earth. They use hydrogen and sulphur to survive without oxygen.

Other genetic sequences of microbes in the mine water are unlike those of any other species. Onstott says that he would not be surprised if the mine contained new species with new types of metabolism.

Radioactive dating by Onstott's colleagues suggests that some pockets of mine water have been isolated for several hundred million years. "The dinosaurs came and went while this water has been down there," he says.

If the microbes can be grown and their workings probed, they should provide new insights into primitive life, Baross adds.

Missions to Mars could look for life by sniffing for hydrogen seeping up from deep in the planet's crust, says Onstott. Mars has some water and uranium, although less than Earth.

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002

Re:Here's the text if the link is down KARMA WHORE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848646)

Dear Sir,

I'd like to inform you of your blatant karma whoring. The odds of these servers being taken down by what is known as the 'Slashdot effect' are remote.

Therefore, your post is unnecessary and should be modded redundant immediately. Because of your lack of ability to post an insightful thought or interesting information in regard to the story, you find it necessary to repost articles here in an effort to gain 'karma.'

Please refrain from these actions in the future; failure to do so will result in your dismissal from the website as a Slashdot user.


extraterrestrial life (0, Redundant)

caffeine_monkey (576033) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848396)

What's really important about this discover is that it extends the boundaries in which we know life can exist, not just on Earth, but throughout the universe. If a microbe can live in boiling hot temperatures in complete darkness with nothing to eat but sulphur, then all of a sudden life on Mars or Europa seems all the more plausible.

A little paranoia... (3, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848397)

Didn't they make a movie (or ten, plus a few X-Files episodes) about this:

The food supply is so sparse that the bugs reproduce maybe only once in a thousand, or perhaps even a million years. That means organisms the scientists are seeing today have had little opportunity to change since the earliest history of life on earth.

Allow me to be the first to put a paranoid spin on the whole issue... where a microbe has lain nearly dormant for 65 million years, living on the odd hydrogen atom, patiently waiting for its chance to do for humankind what it did for the dinosaurs. Nobody is safe this time!

Ok, now that I've exercised my paranoia... I'll calm myself with the knowledge that any bug that has evolved to metabolize the odd hydrogen atom would probably burn up (metabolically speaking) in a highly corrosive atmosphere, such as one containing a whopping 20% oxygen.

and a pair of books... (1)

KingRoo (232714) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848542)

Starfish and Maelstrom by Peter Watts.

Deadly microbe found in a ocean vent; said microbe that assimilates sulfur more rapidly than most things, screwing with human metabolism and killing the host. Humans attempt to nuke the vent. Chaos ensues.

Two fun books, really well written. Here's a link to an annoying, sound filled, book-specific site [] if you're really interested. Maelstrom to me is much more interesting...

Re:A little paranoia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848782)

Can we make a hydrogen fuel cell using a colony of bacteria ?

Non-Linear Cause and Effect! (5, Funny)

Rayonic (462789) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848428)

Could this be a landmark case of quantum theory manifesting itself in our macroscopic world? No, I'm not talking about the bacteria, let me quote from above:

> It is also at Nature.Com, but that server is already rejecting connects.

Effect preceeding Cause -- a server going down just *before* being Slashdotted. What's next, "first posts" before the topic is up? Stories repeated before they're posted in the first place? Dogs and cats living together?!

Re:Non-Linear Cause and Effect! (2, Funny)

CormacJ (64984) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848636)

Maybe it's powered by Schroedinger's webserver?

Re:Non-Linear Cause and Effect! (0)

Johnny00 (213878) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848811)

Actually, we need to change that term, since the site was dead earlier today due to Google News listing it, not /. So now sites get googled. Or maybe just goo'ed. Eewww.

Re:Non-Linear Cause and Effect! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848846)

why does the term for it have to change, though? yes it went down because of google. but it's still the /. effect (def: website got hammered by lots of hits at once. phenomenon originated with in the late 1990's.)

Earth life is as Earth life does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848429)

One species was the common Escherichia coli , well known as an inhabitant of the human gut

So these miners belch and then there was life.
vast quantities of salt water circulate through them at temperatures of about 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Since good old water is abundant, and in liquid form at that, this doesn't seem to apply to extraterrestrial life so much.

Frankly I'm not suprised that life exists down there, if bacteria can survive the cold, radioactive vacum of space for a bit it doesn't seem too much a stretch for them to live so deep in the earth; especially with good old water about.
but hey, if I discovered it I would be pretty excited. Also, a little bit disapointed that the bacteria was nothing more exotic than that one might find in the stomache of any one of us: something of a letdown.

Oceans are still vastly unknown (2, Troll)

ekrout (139379) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848437)

All these years we've been on Earth, and still we humans don't quite understand all the details of marine life.

The articles featured by this Slashdot story focus on recent research that proves life exists many miles beneath the surface of the ocean.

Also, I just read an article [] over at CNN about how typhoons, while dangerous, are absolutely necessary to sustain marine life for undersea creatures.

The ocean truly is a beautiful work of science/art, even more so after each new discovery is uncovered.

Kudos to the marine biologists that every 7th grade student wants to be! ;-D

Well duh! (5, Funny)

spoonist (32012) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848446)

Jules Verne wrote [] of life way beneath the surface of the Earth!!

Geez... some news flash... it's only 131 years late!

Complete fabrication (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848543)

These bacteria were actually found when they did the final commits for FreeBSD 5.0

Even more importantly... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848560)

is there life at these [] depths?

useful? (2, Interesting)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848566)

While this is certainly interesting news, what practical applications could come of this? Why would it be beneficial to humans? What use, if any, can be found in the discovery of these critters??

-- George W. Bush: 1000x better than Clinton the Ass Clown.

Re:useful? (1)

The-Perl-CD-Bookshel (631252) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848664)

It is very useful to humans because some of these "critters" live inside of us. Also, if we study how these bacteria live in such harsh environments then we may be able to develop ways of sustaining human life in such harsh environments.

Partial evidence... (1)

fejikso (567395) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848592)

Finding life in extreme environments does not imply that life can be created in hostile environments. Maybe it only means that life has been able to adapt itself in these extreme conditions.

Perhaps it is necessary to have milder conditions in order to give life a chance to get into a certain level of complexity where it can find its way to more hostile environments.

COOL (0, Offtopic)

danski79 (608562) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848598)

Thomas Gold is my Step Grandfather...How cool for him to be mentioned here. He is one smart guy.

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848618)

Re:In Soviet Russia... MOD +5 FUNNY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848672)

Very nicely done -- a Soviet Russia troll AND a goatse link in the same post! I congratulate you, sir.

This is not news - will the eds get a clue? (1)

Bruce Losis (608865) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848619)

This work was done a couple of years ago - the Nature article is merely reporting on a meeting.

Mirror of SF article (3, Informative)

The-Perl-CD-Bookshel (631252) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848625)

Microbes thrive in the harshest environments Research findings give scientists hope of discovering life on planets

Scientists pondering the possibility of life on distant planets have discovered colonies of earthly microbes thriving in more extreme environments than any they have found before.

-- Bacteria are busily reproducing in the total darkness of water- bearing rocks 2 1/2 miles deep inside a South African gold mine, where the rocks themselves have apparently been isolated from the outside atmosphere for about 400 million years.

-- Other bacteria, frozen into chunks of ice in a Washington laboratory, have thrived inside a high-pressure container and went right on reproducing after they were exposed to pressures equivalent to life at the bottom of an ocean 100 miles deep.

The search for these hardy microbes on Earth -- known to science as "extremophiles" -- has been a high-priority project for NASA space planners, whose unmanned planetary probes have already been seeking evidence of life on Mars as well as Europa and other ice-covered moons of Jupiter.


And the NASA spacecraft called Cassini, now on its way to explore the ringed planet Saturn, will be sending a probe deep beneath the thick atmosphere of Titan, one of Saturn's major satellites, to learn whether some form of life -- or at least life's essential chemicals -- might lie on that mystery moon's surface.

Scientists have long been wondering just what kind of life they might expect and what kind of unearthly conditions such living organisms might be able to withstand.

Until now, researchers in NASA's Astrobiology Institute, whose headquarters are at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, and also at the nearby independent SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute have speculated, theorized and experimented with various concepts for life in extreme environments.

Other scientists have already found microbes thriving in deep mines, in the boiling waters of Yellowstone's geysers, in the sub-zero dry valleys of Antarctica, in the saltiest of brines and the driest of deserts far from any water at all.

At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco this week, where nearly 10,000 scientists have gathered to report research in every discipline from space physics to seismology to oceanography, some of the scientists were reporting on the possible conditions for life in outer space.


Tullis C. Onstott , a Princeton University geologist reported on the international team that found the bacteria living in the bottom of the deepest gold mines in South Africa.

The mines' rock formations, Onstott said, are about 2.7 million years old, and vast quantities of salt water circulate through them at temperatures of about 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

The scientists drilled boreholes into the blackness of fracture zones in the rocks at the bottom of those mines to obtain more than 100 samples of water and gas, and they found bacteria there thriving on enormous concentrations of hydrogen that provided them with energy for growth, Onstott said.

In another report from the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institute of Washington, Anurag Sharma described the "interesting effects on cellular physiology" that he and his colleagues at the institute observed during their experiments with two species of bacteria under high pressure.


One species was the common Escherichia coli , well known as an inhabitant of the human gut, and the other was Shewanella oneidensis, which the Department of Energy hopes to use in its efforts to clean up uranium from contaminated wastes at the old World War II Hanford reactor sites in Washington state.

Both species, Sharma said, were exposed to extremely high pressures inside the water cores of ice blocks and continued healthily reproducing after the ice was thawed and the pressure was reduced to normal.

Re:Mirror of SF article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848685)

thanks, it was down

quick...what is the rock!!! (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848642)

Iron sulfate? if so then mabye that scientist was right about the origin of life.

Worth Remembering (1)

repetty (260322) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848656)

It's worth remembering that most of Earth's life mass lives below its surface, not on top of it surface like trees, birds, fish, and people -- all of it in the cracks of rocks.

Think about that...

But we already knew they were there... (1)

Tseran (625777) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848657)

Remember, we made a movie about them called "Abyss" Will they come up and glow for us after trying to wash us off the face of the Earth?

Life yes, but intelligent? (3, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848673)

At this point, it seems pretty clear that life is a pretty common phenomenon. The only ingredients that are seemingly necessary are water, and carbon. These are ingredients that are spread throughout the universe in vast quantities.

Some day soon, they will finally find bacteria on someplace like europa and we can put to rest any question that there is life out there. The conditions needed to support basic life are pretty minimal. The basic requirements for intellgient life are an entirely different matter. Can a civilization be built around hot thermal vents or two miles deep in ice?

Pressure? So what? (5, Insightful)

A non moose cow (610391) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848754)

Human beings seem to be hung on the idea that living in high pressure environments is an amazing thing simply because we can not do it.

Human life depends heavily on gaseous exchanges, which behave differently at different pressures. Since liquids and solids are hardly compressible, it seems like a no-brainer that organisms that do not rely on gaseous exchanges can reamin intact perfectly well in extremely high pressures.

I would have been more surprised if they had been destroyed.

they eat hydrogen? but what do they shit? oil?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848773)

Anybody remember reading about a theory that our oil is actually being produced by deep bacterica instead of the traditional theory about it being the result of decayed organic matter from the jurassic?

Re:they eat hydrogen? but what do they shit? oil?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848794)

Oil is basicly hydrogen and carbon combined (hydrocarbons). They would need a supply of carbon, and the abillity to make it. If this is possible, then we could use them to MAKE OIL (and have a revoloution in fuel technology)

Ooo - Kinky! (1) (591224) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848784)

Hot, deep bacteria! Call right away, some sexy cryptospiridia are waiting for you - only $9.99 the first minute at 1-900-E-COLI-SEX

Ok, that was bad.

They're out to kill us! (5, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848788)

The oil they're pushing up at us is part of a deliberate plot.

With an infinite supply of oil, we'll soon burn out way into a cataclysmic Greenhouse Effect that will turn the Earth into a moist version of Venus, allowing them to colonize the surface.

You've been warned!


deny knowledge deny growth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4848803)

[i]by bpd1069 (57573) on Monday December 09, @06:13PM (#4848320)
No this isn't flamebait...

Humans (which I am one) tend to view the world through a very narrow perspective. We see things on the terms which we live within. Our existance is within a small thin band of possible environments.[/i]

The people who "tend" to view the world through a very narrow perspective are the ones who are in charge of our research programs and educational facilites. The kind of people who impose restrictions[add your own word] on other researchers discount these peoples theories on a whim or simply because they don't beleive or have any faith/foresight.

I have an outlook on life where anything is possible including stupid discounted things like time travel or fucking warp speed. If we were to start discouting anything without proof or because of absence of proof then we would therefore be cutting off our own avenues of research and knowledge.

We have barely begun to explore and research this planet yet the people at the top stop non mainstream forms of research because of what they believe. We are but children... but children should never stop learning otherwise they wouldn't grow.

Sorry if i don't make much sense but hopefully somebody understands me and can agree.

Probably contamination (0, Redundant)

Idou (572394) | more than 11 years ago | (#4848885)

This is probably a result of contamination occurring within the experiment . . . I mean bacteria are everywhere and very resilent, resistent to heat, various poisons, and can even survive 2 miles under the ground . . . oh, wait.
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