Scientists have discovered new sulfate-breathing microbe species living underneath the ocean’s crust, according to a press release by University of Southern California. Sulfate-breathing microbes are considered to be the oldest organisms on the planet and can also be found in swamps.
Researchers obtained their samples from the Juan de Fuca Ridge, near the coast of Washington, by drilling through the ocean floor to collect water from the aquifer. In order to keep their samples untainted, the researchers created a specialized seal to keep ocean water out while they sampled. Remote controlled machines delivered the samples to the surface.
Scientists say studying the new microbes is crucial to better understanding Earth’s natural planetary carbon cycle.
Top image: Researchers deploy the ROV Jason to collect samples. (Credit: Alberto Robado / USC)