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100-Million-Year-Old Seafloor Sediment Bacteria Have Been Resuscitated

A Japanese research team drilled into the sea floor under 6,000 feet of ocean in the South Pacific Gyre and pulled up sludge that had been sitting there for 100 million years. Could anything survive in it? Well, consider this:

The gyre is a marine desert more barren than all but the aridest places on Earth. Ocean currents swirl around it, but within the gyre, the water stills and life struggles because few nutrients enter. Near the center is both the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility (made famous by H.P. Lovecraft as the home of the be-tentacled Cthulhu) and the South Pacific garbage patch.  At times the closest people are astronauts passing above on the International Space Station.

The sea here is so miserly that it takes one million years for a meter of marine “snow”—corpses, poo and dust—to accumulate on the bottom. The tale of all that time can total as little as 10 centimeters. It is the least productive patch of water on the planet.

Against all odds, bacteria cells from the retrieved cores came alive in the presence of nutrients -and started reproducing! Some types of bacteria produce spores that encase the cell to protect it, but this bacteria was not that sort. What kind of bacteria can lay dormant for 100 million years and come to life? And how afraid of it should we be? Read about this experiment at Scientific American. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Arito Sakaguchi & IODP/TAMU)


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