Scientists have found that rocks on and under the seafloor are a good habitat for microbes.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Nicolle Rager-Fuller/National Science Foundation
Rock Eating Bacteria Found at the Bottom of the Sea
News story originally written on May 28, 2008
Has anyone ever told you that you shouldn’t eat things that you find on the floor? Well, the rules are different for bacteria. Scientists have found tons of bacteria at the bottom of the ocean. And it looks like they are “feeding” off the seafloor.
There are places on the seafloor where it looks like there is nothing but rocks. But there is. These places are the home of very tiny living things called bacteria. New research has figured out how many bacteria are living on the ocean floor. And there’s a lot.
Scientists found a lot more bacteria living on the rocks of the seafloor than in the water above. They also found that there are many different species of bacteria there.
They tested a few different places on the seafloor and found the same result – lots of bacteria. So bacteria may be living all over the seafloor.
For living things to survive and grow they need a way to get energy. The scientists wondered where in this dark cold environment the bacteria were finding the energy they needed.
From their research, they knew that the ocean crust supports more bacteria than seawater above it. The scientists made a hypothesis that the bacteria might be getting the energy they need from the rocks.
In the lab they did some math to figure out how many bacteria could survive on the rock. And the math results suggest that the bacteria are able to get their nutrition from the rocks.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Basalt is volcanic rock. It is the most common type of rock in the Earth's crust and it makes up most of the ocean floor. It forms when lava reaches the Earth's surface at a volcano or mid ocean ridge....more
Being a scientist is fun. You get to do experiments and think of reasons why things might be happening a certain way. Being a scientist is also hard work. After a scientist comes up with a reason why something...more
The deep ocean can be a difficult place to live. The water is very cold and it’s always dark there. Sunlight can not get down that far. It’s not always easy to find food. For some animals, food comes...more
This page describes environments that are filled with acids, are blasted with radiation, are under high pressure, or are tough places for most living things in other ways. It is easy for living creatures...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more