Photosynthesizing bacteria found 600 meters underground with no access to sunlight

An international team of scientists has discovered cyanobacteria at a depth of more than 600 meters. There would be nothing surprising about this if it were not for the fact that these creatures derive their energy from photosynthesis, and were found in conditions where there is no sunlight.

The Rio Tinto region in southwestern Spain has long been considered similar to Mars – the landscape is red because of the abundance of mineralsóin an iron and sulfur. It was these similarities that tempted scientistów to study próbek of rocks, wanting to better understand what kinds of life could exist in such a barren place.

To test this, the researchers drilled a 613-meter borehole to collect próbek of rocks located far below the Earth’s surface. In the downloaded anastomosing materialół discovered cyanobacteria. Until now, scientists thought they needed sunlight to survive. They were found in cracks and crevices in the rocks, where they were the so-called “fissures”. air pockets.

In an article published in „Proceedings of National Academy of Science”, group of scientistsów describes their research on cyanobacteria and what they found.

Cyanobacteria, also known as cyanobacteria, derive their energy from photosynthesis – hence the need for sunlight. They can be found anywhere on Earth, all it takes is a small amount of sunlight. They are the same creatures thatóre yearly blooms in bodies of water preventing tourists from swimming. They are also among the oldest life forms on Earth. Previous studies have suggested that they have been adding oxygen to the atmosphere for millions of years, allowing other life forms to evolve.

Surprised by the discovery, scientists wróciliates for more próbek. This time, the entire collection process was carried out using more rigorous protocolsóin order to make sure that próbki will not be contaminated. In the second próbie also found groups of cyanobacteria living in air pockets in rocks.

The researchers found that these tiny creatures, whoówhich normally on the surface need sunlight for photosynthesis, have developed new ways to survive in conditions without access to sunlight. To understand what kind, scientists analyzed the genetic sequences of bacteria. This has given them some indicationówki.

They have discovered that in many ways the cyanobacteria of the underworld are the same as their cousins living on the surface. But they also found traces of the processóin the chemicals taking place in these tiny creatures, które allow them to generate energy using hydrogen as fuel. – Whenever in próbkach there were large numbers of cyanobacteria, hydrogen concentrations were decreasing, which may indicate that cyanobacteria actually consume waterór – said study leader Fernando Puente-Sancheza of Spain’s National Center for Biotechnology.

Researchers believe that cyanobacteria discovered in Spain may reflect characteristics of an ancient ancestor of cyanobacteria, który did not benefit from photosynthesis. In pockets of air, in whichór which these life forms were found, a local decrease in hydrogen concentration was also observed.

Cyanobacterial markers in prórocky blocks. Photo. PNAS

Research has shown that countless legions of hidden microorganisms live beneath our feetóin developing in a wayób, whichóry scientists still do not fully understand.

Bacteria discovered at a depth of more than 600 metersóin Spain have provided tantalizing indicationsówek of possible life thatóre could be hiding on other planets, deep beneath the surface. For example, on Mars, where strong radiation and a harsh environment make the planet’s surface virtually uninhabitable.

Finding common surface bacteria deep beneath the Earth, away from sunlight, is forcing researchers to reassess underground ecosystemsóin – including those on other planets.

– A place below the planet’s surface is a good place to live if you’re on Mars. There is almost no atmosphere on the surface of the Red Planet, but there is a lot of radiation, które can destroy life. But just a few metersóin under the surface is a very stable environment – said Puente-Sancheza.

Dr. Puente-Sancheza also admitted that he was initially surprised by the presence of cyanobacteria, a group of microbialólargely defined by their ability to obtain energy through photosynthesis – living so far from the sun’s rays. – When you think of cyanobacteria, you think of photosynthesis – explained.

– It is now believed that if life ever existed on Mars, it was in the distant past, because there were better conditions then. There was water, atmosphere, która gave protection, volcanic activity, whichóra in turn gave more energy. Perhaps life inóhas existed on the surface at one time and has done quite well in the past. It may have colonized subsurface areas of the planet and may still be there – Puente-Sancheza pointed out.