In 1998, evidence was also found of "rock-eating" microbes at depths of about 1.5 km (~1 mile) beneath the ocean floor. A team from Oregon State University found minute tracks in core samples of basalt obtained from under the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans by the Ocean Drilling Program. In every case where a track was examined closely it was found to contain DNA. One theory is that the organisms which create such trails are seeking micronutrients from the rock in the form of iron, potassium, or sulfur. They appear either to consume the rock or excrete some kind of acid that dissolves it.
The discovery of endoliths, and the varied and innovative means by which they acquire nutrients and energy, brings closer the prospect that life arises frequently in the universe. Wherever there is internal heat, the presence of some underground water, and a supply of inorganic chemical nutrients, as, for example, there may be on Mars, the large moons of the gas giants, and even comets, then subsurface life may exist.
Related entry extremophiles
Related categories• EXTREMOPHILES
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