Life underground

A fascinating thing I learned in a seminar today: there is life almost 6 km (3.7 mi) underground — basically as far down as we can drill, we’ve found living microbes. We don’t know the limits of life below the surface, so it could go much deeper. Estimates indicate that more than half of the earth’s biomass could lie in the “deep biosphere”, that is, on a mass basis there could be as much or more life deep underground as there is on the surface and near-surface.An interesting feature of the organisms that live down there is that they live very slowly, with lifetimes of a thousand years or more. The seminar was on the “Deep Carbon Observatory“, a new, 10-year research effort to understand the deep carbon cycle.

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