Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cryptic Marine Ecosystem Could Break Age Record

19.02.2008
Bubbly Life Deep in Vulcanic Rocks

A new microbial ecosystem existed in bubbles of 400 million year old volcanic rocks and may well be found in three billion year old rocks: That is the gist of an article by Prof. Jörn Peckmann of the MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen. The article will be published in the march issue of the journal Geobiology.

Peckmann and his team found mineral deposits in former cavities of pillow basalts that are best explained by the theory that microbes lived deep within the rocks. Their fossils were found in rocks formed from lava that flowed out of the sea floor. Now they are part of the Rheinische Schiefergebirge, about 50 kilometers west of the German town of Kassel.

"Microbes are hardy creatures, they thrive where nobody would even look for life", says geologist Jörn Peckmann, professor at the MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen. "One of these places is in the middle of a rock." Because the microbes lived inside the rock, their fossils are well protected against the ravages of time. "And since they present a possibly very ancient ecosystem, it might be possible to find specimen considerably older than three billion years", hopes Jörn Peckmann.

But how do microbes get inside the rock? When lava flows out of an underwater volcano it is cooled quickly and forms typical shapes, so called pillow basalt. "This lava often contains large amounts of gas, so that the resultant rocks are full of bubbles", explains the geologist. "Through fine pores and cracks sea water circulates in the bubbles of diameters of usually less than a few millimeters." The water transports dissolved minerals, which get deposited on the walls. On these deposits grow microbes, which also travelled with the pore water. With age this porosity lessens because all the bubbles, pores and cracks are filled by the minerals transported by the pore water.

The thin sections of rocks analysed by the team clearly show thin regular strands of three to eight microns wide, encrusted by mineral deposits. Living microbes today show similar deposits. A clear indication that the structures found in the basaltic rocks were indeed formed by living organisms. Further evidence comes from the size and form of the structures which is consistent with microbial activity. The fact that the structures in question occur inside the bubbles of the intact rock also strengthens Peckmanns theory. Would the structures occur along fracture planes or crystal borders they could be explained by physical processes that often occur there.

"The most astonishing thing is, that we found these inclusions not only in the Rheinische Schiefergebirge in Hesse, but also in similarly aged pillow basalts in Thuringia and Bavaria. It seems as if these organisms were quite common", stresses the geologist from Bremen. What the microbes did in the rocks and what nourished them is still a riddle for the MARUM-team. Iron is one of the possible energy sources discussed. "Our further steps are to investigate whether this form of life was common and whether it still exists today." A question that is not irrelevant. "We think these organisms were quite common. If that is the case, they might have had a great influence on the chemistry of the basaltic rocks at the sea floor and therefore on sea water chemistry." And this in turn would have influenced the conditions for other organisms. "This would mean that we have to rewrite some explanations of how and why life in the oceans changed."

Further information, interviews, images:

Kirsten Achenbach
Public Relation
MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen
Tel.: int.+49-421- 218-65541
mail: achenbach@marum.de
Prof. Jörn Peckmann
Speaker Geobiology
MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen
Tel.: int.+49-421- 218-65740
mail: peckmann@marum.de
The MARUM is a union of the excellence cluster "The Ocean in the Earth System" and of the Research Center Ocean Margins and is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). It aims at unravelling the role of the oceans in the Earth's system by employing state-of-the-art methods. It examines the significance of the oceans within the framework of global change, quantifies interactions between the marine geosphere and biosphere, and provides information for a sustainable use of the ocean.

Kirsten Achenbach | idw
Further information:
http://www.marum.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Seismic study reveals huge amount of water dragged into Earth's interior
18.12.2018 | National Science Foundation

nachricht A damming trend
17.12.2018 | Michigan State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>