University of Leicester
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In-situ detection of microbial life in the deep biosphere in igneous ocean crust

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posted on 2016-12-08, 10:26 authored by E. C. Salas, R. Bhartia, Louise Anderson, W. F. Hug, R. D. Reid, G. Iturrino, K. J. Edwards
The deep biosphere is a major frontier to science. Recent studies have shown the presence and activity of cells in deep marine sediments and in the continental deep biosphere. Volcanic lavas in the deep ocean subsurface, through which substantial fluid flow occurs, present another potentially massive deep biosphere. We present results from the deployment of a novel in-situ logging tool designed to detect microbial life harbored in a deep, native, borehole environment within igneous oceanic crust, using deep ultraviolet native fluorescence spectroscopy. Results demonstrate the predominance of microbial-like signatures within the borehole environment, with densities in the range of 105 cells/mL. Based on transport and flux models, we estimate that such a concentration of microbial cells could not be supported by transport through the crust, suggesting in situ growth of these communities.


This research used data provided by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). Funding for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation, Sloan Foundation, NASA Astrobiology Institute (Icy Worlds 13NAI720024 and Life Underground NNA13AA92A publication #067) and NASA Astrobiology Science and Instrument Development (GURILA NNH10ZDA001N). The authors would like to thank Wolfgang Bach, C. Geoff Wheat, Clayton Furman, Eric Meissner and Tania Lado-Insua for logistical and analytical support during the deployment of DEBI-t. Part of this research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This work was supported by the NSF Science and Technology Center for Dark Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) (Award 0939564). Raw data is archived at the IODP-USIO Science Services website, administered by Texas A&M University.



Frontiers in Microbiology, 2015 6:1260.

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Geology


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