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Microbes found living two miles beneath Earth's surface

"The discovery of the Hadesarchaea will help us increase our understanding of the biology and lifestyle of archaea that thrive in the deep biosphere," said researcher Thijs Ettema.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 15, 2016 at 3:24 PM

UPPSALA, Sweden, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Researchers have sequenced the genome of a newly discovered group of deep-dwelling microbes named Hadesarchaea. The analysis offers new insight into the life of microorganisms similar to some of the earliest life forms on Earth.

The microbes -- detailed in the journal Nature Microbiology -- were found two miles beneath Earth's surface in a South African gold mine, where they're able to subsist in the absence of oxygen and light. Researchers believe the newly discovered bacteria-like microbes derive their energy from carbon monoxide.

Scientists named the group Hadesarchaea after the Greek god of the underworld.

"Before this essentially nothing was known about the Hadesarchaea's ecological role and what makes them so prominent throughout the world," study author Jimmy Saw, a researcher at Uppsala University, said in a news release. "The new discovery expands our knowledge of how these organisms may have adapted to the extreme conditions of the deep biosphere."

The group of microbes first discovered in South Africa has also been found in Yellowstone hot springs as well as deep in the mud of a North Carolina estuary. Hadesarchaea has been situated within a larger group of microbes Archaea.

"The discovery of the Hadesarchaea will help us increase our understanding of the biology and lifestyle of archaea that thrive in the deep biosphere," echoed Thijs Ettema.

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