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Professional fasters deep under the sea floor

An international team of researchers from the USA and Germany has published an explanation for life in the Deep Biosphere in the magazine "Science". Using a bunch of the latest technologies from biogeochemistry, molecular biology and microbiology, the scientists collected a wide range of samples from the bottom of the sea. After intensive analysis, Bo B. Jorgensen and Steven DHondt have now published a model with which they explain that microorganisms might survive due to the natural radioactivity deep under the sea floor (Science, 10th November 2006).

It is estimated today that between 10 and 50 percent of all the biomass on the Earth is found deep below ground. Researchers working with Steven DHondt from the University of Rhode Island, USA, and Bo B. Jrgensen from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen have confirmed this in the course of the Ocean Drilling Program. On a voyage on the research ship "Joides Resolution" they found life up to 400 meters below the sea floor. Tests revealed that the drilled cores contained living microorganisms; contamination was ruled out. In the upper layers of sediment, the researchers counted up to 100 million unicellular organisms per millilitre; deeper, in the 35 million year old sediments on the Earth's crust, they still found one million microorganisms. This is a puzzle for scientists: only the upper layers of these deposits are in contact with the water - so where does the energy to provide life in the depths of the sediment come from"

Taking as a basis the energy sources in the deposits that are available to the cells in the form of organic carbon compounds, it is possible to calculate that the cells could only divide every thousand years. This extremely long period for reproduction cannot be reconciled with current understanding of living cells.

Jrgensen and D'Hondt are now proposing, on the basis of their data, a process which could represent an alternative source of ene
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Contact: Dr. Bo Barker Jorgensen
bjoergen@mpi-bremen.de
49-421-202-8602
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
5-Dec-2006


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