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Deepest Traces Of Life On Earth Found Near Mariana Trench

First Posted: Apr 12, 2017 06:27 AM EDT
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Researchers have discovered traces of organic materials in mineral-rich mud samples collected from a mud volcano near the Mariana Trench. This could be the deepest form of life found on Earth, if the samples prove to be evidence of life.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, microbes could be flourishing 6.2 miles below the seafloor. A team of researchers took the help of a remotely operated vehicle to get 46 samples of rock known as serpentine. The samples contained amino acids, lipids and hydrocarbons that are linked to bacterial waste products. Incidentally, Mariana Trench, which is the deepest place on the planet, is located in the Pacific Ocean in the southwest of Japan.

Although the researchers did not find any actual microbes in the samples, they found tantalizing traces of organic material, Science Alert reported. The research team of scientists feels that microbes could have lived up to 6 miles under the seafloor before the heat and pressure became too much, based on the particulars of Mariana Trench’s subduction zone.

“This is another hint at a great, deep biosphere on Earth," lead researcher Oliver Plümper told National Geographic. “It could be very small or huge, but there is definitely something going on that we do not understand yet.”

Research team member Dr. Ivan Savov added that the discovery reveals a new insight into the habitability of Earth. According to him, there have not been many chances to study how microbial life can be hosted in the absence of photosynthesis because it is extremely difficult to obtain samples from the deepest parts of the planet. Now, the mantle rocks have offered a link between the deep carbon cycle and the surface world.

The scientists feel that though the source of the organic chemicals is unclear, there is a chance of life existing at this depth because the currently known temperature limit for life is 122°C, which is probably the temperatures under the mud volcanoes. The researchers have also suggested that the extreme depth, from where the samples were taken, could have provided a sheltered habitat. This allowed life to survive in the the deepest depths during the more violent phases of the planet’s early history.

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