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Int Microbiol. 1998 Dec;1(4):285-94.

Crucial crises in biology: life in the deep biosphere.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology, University of Barcelona, Spain. guerrero@bcn.servicom.es

Abstract

The origin and evolution of life on Earth are the result of a series of crises that have taken place on the planet over about 4500 millions of years since it originated. Biopoiesis (origin of life), ecopoiesis (origin of ecosystems) and the first ecosystems (stromatolites and microbial mats), as well as eukaryopoiesis (origin of nucleated cells) are revised. The paper then focuses on the study of the deep biosphere, describing ecosystems never found before, which are independent of solar radiation and have changed previous assumptions about the requirements of life; even the concept of biosphere, as Vernadsky defined it, has increased its scope. Since the discovery, in 1987, of bacteria growing in the crevices of rocks at 500 m deep, in boreholes drilled near the Savanna River, Aiken, South Carolina, other bacteria have been found in the deep subsurface reaching depths of about 3 km (e.g., in the Columbia River Basalt Group, near Richland, Washington state), in an anaerobic, hot, high-pressure environment. Some kinds of microorganisms can thrive at such depths, living in many cases a geochemical existence, by using very specialized metabolisms, which depend on the local environments. The existence of organisms independent from photosynthetic production is the most outstanding, novel feature of the deep biosphere. Living beings might not need other energy and chemical sources than those which occur in the development of all planetary bodies. Life, therefore, could even be an ineluctable outcome of planetary evolution and, as a corollary, a natural continuation of the usual development of physical phenomena in the universe.

PMID:
10943376
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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