Gaetan Borgonie, Extreme Life Isyensya, Belgium

Scientists uncover massive, diverse ecosystem deep beneath Earth’s surface

To survive in the hostile underworld deep beneath Earth’s surface, organisms must be hardy enough to take on extreme pressure, blistering heat, a complete absence of sunlight, and minimal food. Now, hundreds of scientists from the Deep Carbon Observatory say their 10-year study looking for life in boreholes and underwater drill sites has revealed the deep biosphere is home to billions of microorganisms, The Guardian reports. The combined weight of all the carbon in the subterranean ecosystem, which includes many species of bacteria, archaea (single cells without nuclei), and small multicelled organisms like nematodes (above), is estimated to be 245 to 385 times heavier than that of all human beings on the surface, the researchers report this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.

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