Scientists find world's deepest life forms
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Researchers have found evidence of microbes surviving up to six miles beneath the Mariana Trench.

The more we delve in to the deepest, darkest and most inhospitable regions of our planet, the more we realize just how resilient life can be. The deepest parts of the ocean - in particular the depths of the Mariana Trench - have shown that life can find a way to eke out an existence almost anywhere.

Now in a new study, scientists analyzing samples retrieved from the South Chamorro seamount have found indications that microbes may actually be living even deeper still in a subduction zone beneath the trench - a place where the Pacific tectonic plate slips below the Philippine Sea plate.

"This is another hint at a great, deep biosphere on our planet," said study leader Oliver Plumpe from the Netherlands' Utrecht University. "It could be huge or very small, but there is definitely something going on that we don't understand yet."

The discovery suggests that life could exist deep down below the surface of other planets as well, thus expanding the possibilities of finding microbes on Mars, Europa and elsewhere.

"I think the main take-home of this paper is how this has the potential to place life at some of the deepest environments on the planet," said geomicrobiologist Matthew Schrenk.

"If we're looking for the depth limits of the biosphere, this could extend it by a lot.