This is how microbes survive in the bedrock

Water samples with microorganisms have been collected from, among others, the Äspö HRL outside Oskarshamn. Image: Christian Siebenbürgen
  • Article from SLU
  • Subject: Nature & Technology Deep groundwater is extremely nutrient-poor; yet there is life there. A community of different microbes that work together, and that grow in “shovels” and then go to rest, seems to be the key to survival in this extreme environment. There are many fictional stories about how humans explore life in the underworld. In the novel To the Center of the Earth, Jules Vernes describes how Professor Lidenbrock discovers an underground sea and living prehistoric creatures after a journey down an Icelandic volcanic tunnel. But if we ignore the fiction; what does science say about life beneath the earth’s surface? Urberget is buzzing with active life

    Groundwater in the bedrock is an environment where underground life has been explored. Groundwater environments are extremely oligotrophic, which means that there are very few nutrients and energy that can sustain life. That there should even be life deep beneath the earth’s surface has long been disputed, but in recent times there has been evidence of active life in the form of bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes and viruses.

  • Microbes are invisible to the naked eye

    A microorganism or microbe is a organism that is so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Bacteria

    are unicellular microorganisms without a cell nucleus. are unicellular microbes with a simpler cell wall than the bacteria.
    Eukaryotes are single- or multicellular microorganisms that have a cell nucleus. Virus are large molecules, which are sometimes considered organisms.

    Studies have also been carried out which estimate that the amount of archaea and bacteria in deep groundwater environments amounts to a staggering 5 × 10 27 cells (that is, a 5th followed by 27 zeros, or 5 quadrillions). These form a basis in the nutrient web of the deep biosphere. Important ecological and evolutionary questions about their adaptations and lifestyles have, however, remained unanswered. Microbes that can live in these extremely oligotrophic environments need to have very specific adaptations, but so far very little has been known about who these really are. Water samples were collected from underground labs The possibility of studying deep groundwater environments is limited, as there are few places on earth where it is possible to study the diversity and function of microbes in these ecosystems. One wants to investigate how they are limited by factors such as the composition of the bedrock, access to energy sources, depth and the degree of isolation from the photosynthesis-driven surface of the earth. Researchers from several Swedish and foreign universities have now benefited from the fact that in Sweden and Finland there are two underground laboratories in the form of deep tunnels and deep boreholes. As a result, the researchers had access to deep groundwater from specific bodies of water in two separate fissures in the same bedrock formation – the so-called Fennoscandian bedrock shield. The water samples in the study were collected at a depth of 170 – 531 meters.

    – These facilities have given us a unique opportunity to understand what the ecosystem looks like in deep groundwater, but also how this microbial society may have evolved during evolution, says Maliheh Mehrshad, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Uppsala University.

    He has, together with the other lead author, Margarita Lopez-Fernandez (Linnaeus University and University of Granada in Spain) and colleagues from SLU, Linnaeus University, SciLifeLab and EPFL in Lausanne published the results in Nature Communications . DNA studies reveal the diversity and way of life of microbes

    Researchers have mapped DNA from microorganisms that are transported by water. They have also described the genome of individual cells, and the genes and properties that these organisms express. Overall, the study shows that the microbial communities in the Swedish and Finnish fractures have a very similar composition. In both places, the same species of bacteria and archaea were found. This discovery provides clues to how microbial communities in deep groundwater have evolved. – Groundwater that flows in similar rocks thus offers similar and stable ecological niches that are colonized by similar microorganisms, says Maliheh Mehrshad. The life forms cooperate in the deep groundwater The researchers show that deep groundwater ecosystems promote a microbial community that consists of very different but still cooperating microorganisms that are well adapted to this environment. Thus, life forms survive by working together in mutually beneficial partnerships, for example by helping each other with essential nutrients needed for growth. The microbes adapt to the extremely low supply of energy in the deep groundwater by growing in short episodes and then ending the growth. They only resume the life cycle when the supply of energy has improved again. The study helps to explain how life can be maintained in extremely low energy deep groundwater. Scientific article:

    Energy efficiency and biological interactions define the core microbiome of deep oligotrophic groundwater , Maliheh Mehrshad, Margarita Lopez-Fernandez, John Sundh, Emma Bell, Domenico Simone, Moritz Buck, Rizlan Bernier-Latmani, Stefan Bertilsson & Mark Dopson, Nature Communications Contact: Maliheh Mehrshad, researcher at the Department of Water and the Environment; Section for Ecology and Biodiversity, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, [email protected] Stefan Bertilsson, professor at the Department of Water and the Environment; Section for Ecology and Biodiversity, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, [email protected] Note: This article has been indexed to our site. We do not claim legitimacy, ownership or copyright of any of the content above. To see the article at original source Click Here

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