Acording to some researchers the largest ecosystem on Earth was just discovered and announced last Thursday, and it’s powered by hydrogen, not photosynthesis.
The Oceanic Crust is the rocky hard part under the mud that lies under the ocean. It covers 60% of the planet and it’s 10km thick. (The oceans themselves are a paltry 4km deep on average.) We’ve known for years that the isolated hot springs in trenches held life. But who thought that all the hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of basalt rock in between had its own life cycle? Last week a group from the Center for Geomicrobiology at Aarhus University, Denmark announced that they had drilled through crust that was 2.5km underwater and 55 km away from anything that mattered. They found life in the basalt.
Life Found Deep inside Earth's Oceanic Crust Scientific American
Microbes have been found living deep inside crust at the bottom of the sea. The crust is several kilometers thick and covers 60 percent of the planet's surface, making it the largest habitat on Earth.
For the first time, scientists have discovered microbes living deep inside Earth’s oceanic crust — the dark volcanic rock at the bottom of the sea. This crust is several kilometers thick and covers 60% of the planet’s surface, making it the largest habitat on Earth.
The microbes inside it seem to survive largely by using hydrogen, formed when water flows through the iron-rich rock, to convert carbon dioxide into organic matter. This process, known as chemosynthesis, is distinct from photosynthesis, which uses sunlight for the same purpose.
Persisting in microscopic cracks in the basalt rocks of Earth's oceanic crust is a complex microbial ecosystem fuelled entirely by chemical reactions with rocks and seawater, rather than sunlight or the organic byproducts of light-harvesting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.Posted by Jill Fallon at March 21, 2013 8:53 AM | Permalink
--The paper represents the culmination of findings that have gathered over the last two decades, starting in the 90s with the discovery of strange microscopic holes in the basalt rocks that form much of Earth's outer crust, floating above the planet's viscous upper mantle and below seafloor sediments.