The microbes found themselves buried in clay 101.5 million years ago, before Tyrannosaurus returned, when the largest dinosaur roamed the planet eating meat called Spinosaurus. Time passed, the continents shifted, the oceans rose and fell, large monkeys appeared, and finally human beings evolved with curiosity and the ability to dig up these ancient cells. And now, in a Japanese laboratory, scientists have brought single-celled organisms back to life.
Scientists aboard the drilling rig JOIDES Resolution collected sediment samples from the lower ocean 10 years ago. The samples come from 100 meters below a depth of 20,000 meters (6,000 m) in the South Pacific Ocean. This is an area of the Pacific Ocean with very little nutrients and oxygen available for life, and scientists have been looking for data on how microbes get in such a remote part of the world.
“Our main question was whether life could exist in such a nutrient-limited environment, or whether it would be a lifeless zone,”; said Yuki Morono, a scientist at the Japan Marine Science and Technology Agency and lead author of a new document on microbes. stated in a statement. “We wanted to know how long microbes can keep their lives almost in the absence of food.
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Their results suggest that even cells found in sediment samples aged 101.5 million years are able to awaken when oxygen and nutrients become available.
“I was skeptical at first, but we found that up to 99.1% of the microbes in the sediment deposited 101.5 million years ago were still alive and ready to eat,” Morono said.
The microbes stopped all visible activity. However, when they offered nutrients and other necessities, they became active again.
To ensure that their sample was not contaminated with modern microbes, the researchers cracked the sediment in a highly sterile environment, removed the microbial cells present, and fed them with nutrients only in small tubes that did not allow contamination.
The cells responded, many of them quickly. They quickly absorbed nitrogen and carbon. At 68 days, the total number of cells quadrupled from the original 6,986.
Aerobic bacteria – oxygen vapors – were the heaviest cells and probably woke up. These small organisms survived only small air bubbles, which got down into the sediment through geological times. The metabolic rate of aerobic bacteria appears to be just as slow to allow them to survive for such a long period of time.
The research was published on July 28 in the journal Nature Communications.
Originally published on Live Science.