Washington: A team of researchers has discovered an entire ecosystems teeming with microbes in the bottom of the deep ocean.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Beth Orcutt of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences used the JOIDES Resolution, a sophisticated 470-foot scientific drilling vessel operated by the international Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), to sample the muddy and sandy sediments that blanket the rocks on the seafloor, as well as drill into the hard crustal rocks themselves in order to understand how microbes can "breathe" and get the energy necessary to live in this remote environment.
The team measured oxygen concentrations in sediment cores collected above the rocky oceanic crust, almost three miles below the sea surface, on the western edge of the remote Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
These measurements then allowed the researchers to determine oxygen concentration in seawater circulating in the rocks of the oceanic crust itself.
Orcutt said that their computer models showed that the crustal oxygen concentrations in the region were most likely the result of microbial life forms scavenging oxygen in the crust as seawater moves through fractures and cracks deep in the rocks.
She said that under the cold conditions of the crust in this area, purely chemical oxygen consumption is minimal, which suggests that microbes in the oceanic crust are responsible for using the oxygen that`s down there.
The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.