Life Untouched by the Sun

Posted on October 21, 2006  Comments (1)

Gold mine holds life untouched by the Sun

The first known organisms that live totally independently of the sun have been discovered deep in a South African gold mine.

The bacteria exist without the benefit of photosynthesis by harvesting the energy of natural radioactivity to create food for themselves. Similar life forms may exist on other planets, experts speculate.

The bacteria live in ancient water trapped in a crack in basalt rock, 3 to 4 kilometres down. Scientists from Princeton University in New Jersey, US, and colleagues analysed water from the fissure after it was penetrated by a narrow exploratory shaft in the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg, South Africa. The shaft was then closed.

I must say I was confused why this was seen as the “first” such life.

Other sulphate-eating bacteria have been found in ocean sediments, volcanoes and oil deposits. But all have either received some chemicals produced by photosynthesis, or it has not been clear whether they were trapped and dying, or flourishing.

I am still not sure the “first” claim is really accurate (from NASA site in 2001), but nevertheless this is another interesting case of extremophiles.

Related: Bacteria Living in Glacier

One Response to “Life Untouched by the Sun”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » What is an Extremophile?
    September 14th, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    “An extremophile is an organism that thrives under “extreme” conditions. The term frequently refers to prokaryotes and is sometimes used interchangeably with Archaea…”

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