Settled science is that which has been observed through many experiments.
That it, until it’s upended.
By the facts.
Which is what has happened recently to a team of scientists researching, among other things, cyanobacteria in a mine shaft deep beneath the earth’s surface in Spain.
Cyanobacteria ordinarily requires light, since it uses photosynthesis to survive.
Or that’s what scientists thought.
But there’s new research reported by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that has found cyanobacteria thousands of feet below the surface, in complete darkness, in the Rio Tinto region of Spain.
Gizmodo reported the team led by Fernando Puente-Sánchez from the Spanish Centre of Astrobiology in Madrid drilled a 2,011-foot-long borehole into the rock, pulling up cylinder-shaped sample.
“Back at the lab, Puente-Sánchez’s team found traces of bacteria living in the rock’s crevices, which is not surprising. Back in 2006, for example, scientists found bacteria almost two miles beneath the surface. What was surprising, however, was the discovery of living cyanobacteria within the rocky sample,” Gizmodo said.
“That’s weird because cyanobacteria, like plants, acquire energy via photosynthesis, whereas ‘regular’ bacteria eat dead or decaying matter.”
The research report noted “their ecological range appeared to be restricted to environments with at least occasional exposure to sunlight.”
The evidence, however, “of this previously unknown ecological niche for cyanobacteria paves the way for models on their origin and evolution, as well as on their potential presence in current or primitive biopheres in other planetary bodies, and on the extant, primitive, and p0utative extraterrestrial biospheres.”
“Puente-Sánchez and his colleagues were so surprised to find cyanobacteria within their sample that they went back to Rio Tinto to collect more rocks, though this time with stricter protocols to prevent contamination. But they got the same result, finding traces of living cyanobacteria nestled into the rocks,” Gizmodo reported.
“So what’s going on? How can these microorganisms survive at such extreme depths with no access to sunlight and scant traces of water?
“Observed through a microscope, the subterranean cyanobacteria appeared similar to their cousins that live on the surface. Genetic analysis, however, told a slightly different story; the enigmatic cyanobacteria produce enzymes that convert hydrogen into useful energy. And revealingly, the researchers observed lower levels of hydrogen within the air pockets of the rocks where the cyanobacteria lived compared to areas in which they were absent. This suggests the underground microbes are consuming hydrogen gas to get their fuel.”
The report said the discovery “shows just how resilient and adaptable life can be.’
“But as the authors point out, it could tell us something about the origin, or the presence, of life on other planets, particularly Mars. If microbes can live thousands of feet beneath Earth’s surface, and with no access to sunlight and water, where else in the Solar System or galaxy might we find life?”