200 meters below Idaho, bacteria are living on basalt.
A new type of Earth ecosystem could be found on other planets.
Scientists have found a community of microbes unlike anything else on Earth. Conditions in this ecosystem could mimic those on Earth when life began, and might exist elsewhere in today’s Solar System.
Home to the microbes is a hot spring 200 metres beneath the US state of Idaho. Their lives owe nothing to the Sun. They generate energy by combining hydrogen from rocks with carbon dioxide, releasing methane as a by-product. These ’methanogens’ belong to an ancient group related to bacteria, called the Archaea.
Life - in space and time
Biologists have speculated for many years that hydrogen-powered ecosystems could exist beneath the ground. The methanogen community suggests they were right, says astronomer and astrobiologist Richard Taylor of the Probability Research Group in London.
"As long as there’s subsurface water and enough chemical fuel, you can get microbial life," says Taylor. He thinks that life began in such environments: "It’s life on the surface that’s unusual," he says.
Many bodies in the Solar System and the Universe could harbour similar conditions. "I suspect it’s going to turn out that life is extremely common," says Taylor.
Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa have both been suggested as places where life could exist on hydrogen, today or in the past. If this is so, says microbiologist Julian Hiscox of the University of Reading, UK, it will be several kilometres below the surface, well beyond the reach of any investigations so far.
Probing these environments is going to cost "an awful lot of money", warns Hiscox. A cheaper alternative, he says might be to look for biologically produced methane in martian meteorites on Earth.
Also, Hiscox says, the geological activity necessary to produce hydrogen may have stopped long ago on Mars, and be absent altogether on Europa.
The finding may give us an insight into life in time as well as space. Chapelle thinks that hydrogen may have been accessible and abundant enough on the young Earth to provide the energy for the earliest life.
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
Dalian Coherent Light Source reveals hydroxyl super rotors from water photochemistry
19.03.2019 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters
Microbes can grow on nitric oxide (NO)
18.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock
Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...
Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...
Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.03.2019 | Life Sciences
19.03.2019 | Materials Sciences