"(Phys.org, August 6, 2012) By some estimates, a third of the Earth's organisms by mass live in our planet's rocks and sediments, yet their lives and ecology are almost a complete mystery. This week, microbiologist James Holden at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and others report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the first detailed data about a group of methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes.
Holden says, "Evidence has built over the past 20 years that there's an incredible amount of biomass in the Earth's subsurface, in the crust and marine sediments, perhaps as much as all the plants and animals on the surface. We're interested in the microbes in the deep rock, and the best place to study them is at hydrothermal vents at undersea volcanoes. Warm water flows bring the nutrient and energy sources they need."
"Just as biologists studied the different habitats and life requirements for giraffes and penguins when they were new to science, for the first time we're studying these subsurface microorganisms, defining their habitat requirements and determining how those differ among species. It's very exciting, and will advance our understanding of biogeochemical cycles in the deep ocean...""