Research team from Japan revives microbes lying dormant for millions of years

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on July 30, 2020 Published on July 30, 2020

Microbes revived from 101.5 million-year-old sediment cores gathered from deep beneath the seafloor under the Pacific Ocean are seen in an undated magnified image released by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology   -  REUTERS

New research commissioned by Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) revealed that the earth’s most primordial microbes have survived tens of millions of years without any life-sustaining phenomenon.

The researchers revived the microbes in the lab which had been dormant at the pit of the sea.

The study stated that microbes collected from sediment as old as 100 million years can revive and multiply, even after laying dormant since large dinosaurs prowled the planet.

‘Lifeless’ zone?

“Our main question was whether life could exist in such a nutrient-limited environment or if this was a lifeless zone,” said the paper’s lead author Yuki Morono, senior scientist at JAMSTEC.

He further added: “And we wanted to know how long the microbes could sustain their life in a near-absence of food.”

Morono was initially taken aback by the results. “At first I was sceptical, but we found that up to 99.1 per cent of the microbes in sediment deposited 101.5 million years ago were still alive and were ready to eat,” he said.

Speaking on the life in the ocean, URI Graduate School of Oceanography professor and co-author of the study Steven D’Hondt said in the official release: “We knew that there was life in deep sediment near the continents where there’s a lot of buried organic matter.”

“But what we found was that life extends in the deep ocean from the sea floor all the way to the underlying rocky basement,” he noted.

With the newly developed ability to grow, manipulate, and characterise ancient micro-organisms, the research team is looking forward to applying a similar approach to other questions about the geological past.

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Published on July 30, 2020
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