Not many studies have been conducted on the diversity and ecological systems of the bacteria that causes chlamydia. So, per Newsweek, researchers from Sweden's Uppsala University and Norway's University of Bergen headed up to Loki's Castle—a field of hydrothermal vents in between Norway, Iceland, and Greenland—and made a "completely unexpected" find up to 30 feet underneath the seafloor: multiple new chlamydia species, all seemingly thriving in a high-pressure environment devoid of oxygen and without a host organism, per CNN. The newfound species are close cousins of the bacteria that causes infections in humans and some animals. This "of course begged the question: What on earth were they doing there?" study lead author Jennah Dharamshi says in a release.
Not only were these new species present in such an odd environment—these types of bacteria typically need to interact with other organisms to live—but they were thriving and "exceptionally abundant." CNN notes that in some cases, they were even the dominant bacteria. Scientists hope the discovery will not only shed light on how chlamydia started infecting humans and animals, but also on how chlamydia and related bacteria may play a role in overall marine ecology. "Given their abundance in some of the samples we examined, these Chlamydiae might have a significant ecological impact on the environment they live in," Thijs Ettema, another of the study's co-authors, tells Newsweek. (Read more discoveries stories.)