An international team of researchers from Japan and the United States studied the seabed and discovered microbes that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. They were able to bring them back to life with nutrition and proper laboratory conditions.
Scientists have been collecting samples of ancient sediments from the ocean floor for decades, helping to better understand the past climate, plate tectonics, and deep-sea ecosystems. In a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers described that with proper nutrition and the right laboratory conditions, microbes harvested from sedimentary rocks up to 100 million years old can revive and multiply again. However, they have not functioned since the days of the dinosaurs.
On the seabed, there are layers of sedimentary rocks, consisting of organic debris that constantly comes from the sea surface, as well as dust and particles – they are carried by wind and ocean currents. Small life forms like microbes get caught in this sediment.
A team of scientists drilled several holes in these sediments and found that there was no oxygen there. However, even such conditions allow aerobic microorganisms, which require oxygen to live, to survive for millions of years. Scientists managed to revive them in the laboratory.
“First, we wanted to answer the question of whether organisms can survive in an environment where there is almost no oxygen and nutrients. We learned that microbes can survive for hundreds of millions of years and come to life when placed in the right conditions”.
Yuki Morono, one of the study participants
The percentage of microbes that survived amazed scientists. They found that 99.1% of microorganisms began to function after receiving nutrients and the environment around them. The researchers did not notice any anomalies in their behavior – they live exactly the same way as they did millions of years ago.
According to scientists, the life of microbes underwater is slower than above it, so the rate of evolution of these microbes will be inhibited. Thus, by observing their development, researchers can understand how they have changed. Scientists hope to find other organisms in the sediments underwater that can be revived.