Researchers who have been working with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) have discovered new bacteria, fungi, and viruses living a mile under the ocean floor that are thought to be millions of years old.
The incredible discovery shines some light on how old species on Earth really are, with these living organisms having witnessed life and creation for the past million years. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is a joint venture with over 22 countries taking part. The goal is to understand more about our ocean basins, how old they are and how they were created. This is achieved by drilling into the ground using the scientific discovery boat JOIDES.
Researchers then look at the ground samples found and test them to figure out what bacteria has been living there. And these organisms have many interesting traits that scientists are looking extremely forward to studying further. For example, not only are they very old but they are also very sparse there are not really many of them around at all.
To put it into perspective, in a teaspoon size amount of dirt on from ground level soil we would find over a billion types of bacteria but here researchers only found a couple thousand. The difference could be accounted to the real lack of resources so deep in the ocean ground, yet somehow they have found a way to survive.
Another cool trait that researchers noted is their metabolism works extremely slowly, which is likely to be one of the reasons that their life span is so long. In fact, it works so slow that some researchers are refusing to classify them as living creatures, arguing that they have entered a sort of zombie state.
Geochemists seem stumped on how they find food to survive or even how they reproduce given there is a great distance between the different fungi species or bacteria. They plan to dig deeper and discover even more types of microbes to hopefully find some answers about where and how the first organisms on Earth appeared.