Once the microbes, which are a type of bacteria, were put in laboratory conditions, they came back to life and began eating and multiplying, as living things tend to do.
Even though these microbes are over 100 million years old, they were living in low-energy conditions that allowed them to “retain their metabolic potential,” according to a new research study published by Nature Communications.
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“Once again, this new study extends our view of the habitable biosphere on Earth and the ability of microbes to survive under suboptimal conditions,” Virginia Edgcomb, a geologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who wasn’t involved in the new study, said in an email. “It also extends our view of where viable microbial life contributes to carbon and other nutrient turnover in the deep biosphere.”
There was a previous study of bacterial spores that were supposedly from 250-million-year-old salt crystal in the Permian Salado Formation in New Mexico, but not all experts agreed these were really from back then. One of the issues brought up was that the samples were contaminated.
Using DNA and RNA gene profiling, these 101.5-million-year-old microbes were identified as aeorbic, or oxygen-loving, bacteria and the “lack of permeability between the thick seafloor layers” ruled out contamination.
Jennifer Biddle, who is an associate professor from the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware agreed with these findings and praised Morono.“In fact, were I given a precious sample of Martian material with which I could conclusively prove evidence of life on another planet, I would give it to Yuki Morono,” said Biddle, who wasn’t involved with the new research.
Luckily, Morono says the health risk of reviving ancient bacteria is very low as “subseafloor sediment is regarded as at low risk for health, since no infecting host, like a human, exists in this environment.” Phew.
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