A2: Microbes in the news

Article Title: Deepest Life on Earth May Be Lurking 6 Miles Beneath Ocean Floor

Author: Thea Ghose

Date: April 11, 2017

Source: Live Science

Link: https://www.livescience.com/58632-deepest-life-on-earth-possibly-found.html

Assignment author: Morgen Southwood

Summary-

There are mud volcanoes under the sea floor and they may be inhabited. Biological signatures in material that has risen to the surface could possibly be coming from microbial life 32,800 feet under the surface of the ocean floor. The organic matter are good indicators of the presence of life, but could also have been produced by abiotic processes.

Connections-

Reading this article reminded me of earlier in the semester when we discussed the origins of life and more recently in the semester when we discussed Bas-Becking’s idea. When we discussed the origins of life near under water vents we discussed the kinds of organic chemicals that could have been precursors for the first life forms, those same compounds were found in these mud deposits. When we discussed that life could/would be everywhere, I considered the presence of life beyond our atmosphere, but not beneath the crust of the earth. This article made me wonder what microbial super power could survive in those conditions.

Critical analysis. —

This article only spends one half of it’s very short article discussing the new discovery. I wish that there had been more details on the discoveries methods. Apparently the compounds came from rocks that were “spewed’ onto the surface, there was no explanation on how the scientists could be sure that any signs of life originated in the mud volcano, and wasn’t the product of contamination as the mud progressed to the surface.

My favorite sentence in this paper isn’t referring to the recent discovery; it’s within a paragraph summarizing other research on deep sub surface microbial life. The sentence reads, “ the deeper that scientists have looked the deeper life has seemed to go.’     I wonder if there is a limit to this, if scientist will one day conclusively say: no more life past this point. The researchers of the under sea mud volcano seem to think so. They made an estimate for the maximum depth that could support life. Considering a maximum temperature of 122 degrees Celsius and 1000x atmospheric pressure, the deepest Achaean environment would be about 32,800 feet below the surface.

This article was presented both scientifically, and in a way that could be digested by an interested member of the general public. Its lack of depth was compensated by links to relevant background information and relevant studies.

Question-

Will scientists ever be able to definitively state that an environment/ location is completely free of life without having to clarify “that we know of’?

 

1 Comment for “A2: Microbes in the news”

Rod Espejo

says:

Hey Morgen, I agree. This article was indeed broad in scope, but the idea that microbial life could be found so far underneath the Earth’s surface is an intriguing one. It makes sense for an Archaeal microorganism to be able to survive that deep underground, and good point bringing up the hydrothermal origin hypothesis.
As for your question, there is a big possibility that some sort of location, with the right conditions, could be devoid of life whatsoever. Outer space is the closest one I could think of, but then again some microorganisms can actually survive the vacuum of space (i.e. the water bears, or tardigrades). If I’m to guess, I’d say that it’s possible for such a place to exist, though it might take decades or more for us to discover it.

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