Life May Have Originated Miles Underground

New research questions 'primordial soup' theory

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 14, 2013 7:06 AM CST

(Newser) – The idea of a "primordial soup," in which life theoretically began in lakes and oceans, may be way off. New studies suggest the beginnings of life on this planet could have occurred deep underground, the Independent reports. Researchers have found microbes up to 3.1 miles below the Earth's surface—tiny organisms that are almost exactly the same on opposite sides of the planet. That points to a possible common ancestor about 3.5 billion years ago, which is when earthly life began, the paper explains.

Scientists pulled such microbes from fissures in rocks as widespread as North America, Japan, Europe, South Africa, and even, according to Red Orbit, deep hydrothermal vents in the Caribbean. The samples were more than 97% identical, or practically the same species, according to researcher Matt Schrenk, who notes that some may "live as deep as (6 miles) into the Earth." He adds: "It is easy to understand how birds or fish might be similar oceans apart, but it challenges the imagination to think of nearly identical microbes (10,000 miles) apart from each other in the cracks of hard rock at extreme depths, pressures, and temperatures." (Click for more of the craziest discoveries of the week, including the idea that the universe may actually be ... a hologram.)

Life on Earth may have started underground.
Life on Earth may have started underground.   (Shutterstock)
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