From Wood’s Hole:
Ancient rocks harbored microbial life deep below the seafloor, reports a team of scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Virginia Tech, and the University of Bremen. This new evidence was contained in drilled rock samples of Earth’s mantle – thrust by tectonic forces to the seafloor during the Early Cretaceous period. The new study was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The discovery confirms a long-standing hypothesis that interactions between mantle rocks and seawater can create potential for life even in hard rocks deep below the ocean floor. The fossilized microbes are likely the same as those found at the active Lost City hydrothermal field, providing potentially important clues about the conditions that support ‘intraterrestrial’ life in rocks below the seafloor.
The study reinforces the idea that life springs up anywhere there is water, even in seemingly hostile geological environments – a tantalizing prospect as scientists find more and more water elsewhere in the solar system. But Klein contends that, while scientists have long understood many of the forces driving microbial life above the seafloor, there is still a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to understanding biogeochemical processes occurring in the oceanic basement. More.
If we assume that life forms play a role in shaping their environment for more life, the mere existence of water somewhere does not demonstrate that there will be life there, any more than an empty bandshell somewhere shows that a band will arrive. It’s suggestive, to be sure, but we need more than that.
See also: Team finds Earth’s mineralogy is unique in cosmos (Life forms might shape minerals at or near Earth’s surface for their own benefit, creating a specialized environment that is not automatically replicable on a far-off planet.)
Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!
Maybe if we throw enough models at the origin of life… some of them will stick?
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