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RE: Deep Life
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Deepest-living land animal found

Worms have been found living at depths in the Earth where it was previously thought animals could not survive.
Discovered in South African mines, the roundworms can survive in the stifling 48C (118F) water that seeps between cracks 1.3km beneath the Earth's crust.
The find has surprised scientists who, until now, believed only single-celled bacteria thrived at these depths.

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Ed ~ Image of a Horta, a silicon-based lifeform, from Janus VI. ;)



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Title: First Investigation of the Microbiology of the Deepest Layer of Ocean Crust
Authors: Olivia U. Mason, Tatsunori Nakagawa, Martin Rosner, Joy D. Van Nostrand, Jizhong Zhou, Akihiko Maruyama, Martin R. Fisk, Stephen J. Giovannoni

The gabbroic layer comprises the majority of ocean crust. Opportunities to sample this expansive crustal environment are rare because of the technological demands of deep ocean drilling; thus, gabbroic microbial communities have not yet been studied. During the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expeditions 304 and 305, igneous rock samples were collected from 0.45-1391.01 meters below seafloor at Hole 1309D, located on the Atlantis Massif (30 N, 42 W). Microbial diversity in the rocks was analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and sequencing (Expedition 304), and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism, cloning and sequencing, and functional gene microarray analysis (Expedition 305). The gabbroic microbial community was relatively depauperate, consisting of a low diversity of proteobacterial lineages closely related to Bacteria from hydrocarbon-dominated environments and to known hydrocarbon degraders, and there was little evidence of Archaea. Functional gene diversity in the gabbroic samples was analysed with a microarray for metabolic genes ("GeoChip"), producing further evidence of genomic potential for hydrocarbon degradation - genes for aerobic methane and toluene oxidation. Genes coding for anaerobic respirations, such as nitrate reduction, sulfate reduction, and metal reduction, as well as genes for carbon fixation, nitrogen fixation, and ammonium-oxidation, were also present. Our results suggest that the gabbroic layer hosts a microbial community that can degrade hydrocarbons and fix carbon and nitrogen, and has the potential to employ a diversity of non-oxygen electron acceptors. This rare glimpse of the gabbroic ecosystem provides further support for the recent finding of hydrocarbons in deep ocean gabbro from Hole 1309D. It has been hypothesized that these hydrocarbons might originate abiotically from serpentinization reactions that are occurring deep in the Earth's crust, raising the possibility that the lithic microbial community reported here might utilize carbon sources produced independently of the surface biosphere.

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Deep biosphere
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Life discovered in deepest layer of Earth's crust

Just when you thought we had discovered signs of life everywhere possible on Earth, a new expedition has revealed a complete ecosystem existing in the deepest layer of the planets crust.
A drilling expedition towards the Earth's centre would mean digging through sediment, a layer of basalt, and then hit the gabbroic layer, which lies directly above the mantle.

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Deep Life
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Half of Earth's life may lie below

While astronomers scour the skies for signs of life in outer space, biologists are exploring an enormous living world buried below the surface of the Earth.
Scientists estimate that nearly half the living material on our planet is hidden in or beneath the ocean or in rocks, soil, tree roots, mines, oil wells, lakes and aquifers on the continents.
They call it the "subsurface biosphere," a dark world where the sun and stars don't shine. Some call it Earth's basement.

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