Thursday, March 14, 2013

The World's Strangest Ecosystem

If you could think of the largest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Tropical environments, such as rainforests or reefs, might be the most prevalent answer, but new research indicates that it might not be the right one. Scientists discovered, after analyzing buried continental crust off the coast of Washington, that the sea floor is home to a diverse array of microbes all responsible for chemosynthesis (i.e., the production of energy from inorganic substances), specifically with carbon dioxide. Additionally, given how much of buried crust is in the ocean, this could be one of the largest ecosystems in the world.

While this definitely has implications as a potential carbon sink for the anthropogenic emissions of carbon, it also raises some other key questions. Namely, the fact that these wide hose of organisms can survive in a habitat that is relatively deprived of both oxygen and light, which could hold astounding implications for potential life both on Earth and across the cosmos. It seems that the (somewhat) old adage is true that "life finds a way."

No comments: