Scientists revive 100 million-year-old microbes from deep under seafloor

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 1, 2020

By learning about its ability to revive and regrow, researchers are looking to see if there are other applications for their research, including understanding how microbes evolved.

While earlier experiments have highlighted how certain bacteria can survive in tough places, Morono says the new study shows that some of Earth's simplest living beings "do not actually have the concept of lifespan". Once reanimated, most of the microbes were able to feed and multiply with seemingly no ill effects attributed to their long period of rest.

Dr Steven D'Hondt of the University of Rhode Island, said: "In the oldest sediment we've drilled, with the least amount of food, there are still living organisms, and they can wake up, grow and multiply".

Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology dug up chunks of clay from 70 meters beneath the ocean floor. The pressure is vast for the microbes in the seafloor, due to all the water accumulated in the upper part, not to mention the fact that the lack of oxygen , the few essential nutrients and supplies of energy miserables . As a result, very little organic matter falls to the seafloor more than three miles below.

The samples were obtained in 2010, when an expedition of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) recovered sedimentary sequences from the abyssal plain of the South Pacific Giro. For up to 557 days after, Morono would extract small chunks of sediment and dissolve them in water, searching for living cells.

"At first I was skeptical, but we found that up to 99.1% of the microbes in sediment deposited 101.5 million years ago were still alive and were ready to eat", he said.

The historical microbes have been offered a increase of oxygen and fed traceable substrates containing carbon and nitrogen, their foods of alternative, just before the glass vials had been sealed, incubated and only opened immediately after 21 times, 6 weeks or 18 months.

Scientists have managed to bring to life microbes that were in a dormant state for more than 100 million years. It's a freakish discovery, and one that suggests that organisms can survive more inhospitable environments than scientists thought.

The microbes belong to ten different groups of bacteria and were retrieved from sediment deep under the seafloor in the heart of the South Pacific Gyre.

After analyzing their samples, the scientists discovered oxygen in the sediment cores, indicating that the region below the seafloor has ideal habitable conditions for aerobic microorganisms or those that need oxygen to live.

In accordance to a new study printed in the journal Nature Communications, microbes uncovered buried underneath the seafloor have persisted for up to 101.5 million years.

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