New microbes that thrive deep in the earth discovered

Published: 2016-02-17


They live several kilometers under the surface of the earth, need no light or oxygen and can only be seen in a microscope. By sequencing genomes of a newly discovered group of microbes, the Hadesarchaea, an international team of researchers have found out how these microorganisms make a living in the deep subsurface biosphere of our planet.

Microorganisms that live below the surface of the earth remain one of the last great areas of exploration. Organisms that live there have not been grow in the laboratory and therefore their lifestyles are unknown. An international team led by microbiologists Brett Baker at The University of Texas and Thijs Ettema at SciLifeLab/Uppsala University, along with scientists from UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Bremen, have discovered how microorganisms, first discovered in a South African gold mine at a depth of two miles, are able to make a living in the absence of oxygen and light. The study is published in Nature Microbiology.

Baker and Ettema found these microbes in vastly different aquatic and terrestrial environments; the deep mud of a temperate estuary in North Carolina and underneath hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.

‘The discovery of the Hadesarchaea will help us increase our understanding of the biology and lifestyle of archaea that thrive in the deep biosphere’, said Thijs Ettema.

Read the full press release at Uppsala University

Read more about Thijs Ettema’s research group