World’s Strangest

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Bacteria Survive Being Buried for 86 Million Years

Photo: Bo Barker Jørgensen

It may sound like the plot of a Syfy movie, but it’s real: scientists
have discovered that bacteria can survive being buried for 86-million-years
in deep-sea mud.

The scientists jammed a large metal pipe 30 meters into the sea
bottom and used a piston to suck out a long column of reddish clay.
After hauling the sediment onboard, they probed the core with a needlelike
sensor to measure the oxygen concentration in each layer. The researchers
knew how much oxygen should have diffused down into each section of
sediment from the seawater, so any "missing" oxygen meant
microbes had consumed it.

Moving deeper through the core is like moving back in time, studying
older and older communities of microorganisms. "We can use the
Pacific as a natural experiment that has been running for 86 million
years," Røy says.


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May 17th, 2012

Stranger to the World


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