Living ocean creatures from the age of the dinosaurs

Microbes living 30 metres below the Pacific Ocean floor could be as old as a few centuries to millions of years in age, according to microbiologist Hans Roy. The last time some of these organisms took a breath or consumed food could have been when dinosaurs were in existence 86 million years ago. These microbes are progressing so slowly they resemble death or dormancy; scientists refer to them as slow-living organisms. The ocean floor contains a wealth of microbial life. Single-celled organisms living on the ocean floor often progress faster than those metres deep beneath the floor. Those 30 metres deep are using oxygen one-10,000th the rate of microbes living on the surface of the ocean floor.

“There’s an abundant biosphere below the surface skin where we live…and yet most of what is down there is living at a pace and in a mode that we don’t have represented in the world around us,” said Tori Hoehler, a biogeochemist at the NASA Ames Research Center’s exobiology branch near San Jose, who was not involved in the [Hans Roy’s] study. “Most of life lives in a mode we don’t understand at  all.”

These single-celled organisms live in such extreme conditions, that Hans Roy’s core sample research on the subject of micro-organisms below the ocean floor could help astrobiologists with their searches for life on other planets.

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