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Saved By An Earthquake January 21, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Environment, Evolution, Microbes.
Tags: , ,

When we think of earthquakes, I’m guessing most of us think about injuries, death and widespread damages. But for some living creatures, earthquakes are what actually keep them alive! For these miniscule microbes, earthquakes could provide the important nutrients they need to live.

Crusts Are Good

No, I’m not talking about bread! The earth’s crust is home to some tough bacteria that live many kilometers below the surface. Down, down, down into the depths of the earth, these microbes live without sun or organic materials to support their requirements. What keeps them alive? They live off chemical energy from reactive molecules. These molecules include hydrogen, which dissolves in the water that leaches from the rock.

I Like The Way You Move

Two researchers from Stanford University in California have suggested that the movement from earthquakes may play a valuable role in keeping microbes who reside deep in the earth’s crust alive. Calculations by Norman Sleep and Mark Zoback showed that seismic activity may occur often enough to consistently provide nutrients across a tectonic plate. This means that microbial life could continue for billions of years! By opening up cracks in the earth’s crust, earthquakes can release little pockets of water that are rich in the favorite nutrients of the microbes. Not only that, but the movement can expose rock that has the dissolved hydrogen these microbes adore so much. Yum!

Applying Research To Other Planets

What happens here on the earth can give us some cool clues to the stuff happening on other planets. How so? Well, the researchers think that this same mechanism could be sustaining microbes deep in the crust on planets like Mars. So, while you and I live happily on the earth’s surface, microbes are partying it up in the depths of the earth’s crust!

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1. scienceguy288 - January 22, 2008

Nice article. But remember, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s pedestrian.

2. Miss Weird Scientist - January 22, 2008

Thanks. :)

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