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Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 10;8(1):261. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18481-w.

A new macrofaunal limit in the deep biosphere revealed by extreme burrow depths in ancient sediments.

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School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
Ocean & Earth Science, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Southampton, UK.


Macrofauna is known to inhabit the top few 10s cm of marine sediments, with rare burrows up to two metres below the seabed. Here, we provide evidence from deep-water Permian strata for a previously unrecognised habitat up to at least 8 metres below the sediment-water interface. Infaunal organisms exploited networks of forcibly injected sand below the seabed, forming living traces and reworking sediment. This is the first record that shows sediment injections are responsible for hosting macrofaunal life metres below the contemporaneous seabed. In addition, given the widespread occurrence of thick sandy successions that accumulate in deep-water settings, macrofauna living in the deep biosphere are likely much more prevalent than considered previously. These findings should influence future sampling strategies to better constrain the depth range of infaunal animals living in modern deep-sea sands. One Sentence Summary: The living depth of infaunal macrofauna is shown to reach at least 8 metres in new habitats associated with sand injections.

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