21 Aug 2019
News

Earth’s ‘Deep Biosphere’ Is Home to Millions of Undiscovered Species

Life on Earth takes billions of shapes, but to see most of them you’ll have to dig deep below the planet’s surface.

For the past 10 years, that’s what the scientists of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) have been doing. Composed of more than 1,000 scientists from 52 countries around the world, this group of scientists maps the weird, wild life of Earth’s “deep biosphere” — the mysterious patchwork of underground ecosystems that exists between Earth’s surface and its core. It might sound like an unglamorous world of dirt, darkness and daunting pressure but, according to new research from the DCO, harsh conditions haven’t stopped millions of undiscovered species of microbial life from evolving there since the planet’s birth. [Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures]

In a statement that dubs Earth’s deep biosphere a “subterranean Galapagos” waiting to be studied, DCO scientists estimate that the sheer biomass of carbon-based life lurking below our feet utterly dwarfs the amount of life roaming the Earth’s surface. With about 17 billion to 25 billion tons of carbon (15 to 23 billion metric tonnes) under the planet’s surface, DCO researchers estimate there is nearly 300 to 400 times as much carbon biomass underground (most of it still undiscovered) as there is in all the humans on Earth.

Life on Earth takes billions of shapes, but to see most of them you’ll have to dig deep below the planet’s surface.

For the past 10 years, that’s what the scientists of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) have been doing. Composed of more than 1,000 scientists from 52 countries around the world, this group of scientists maps the weird, wild life of Earth’s “deep biosphere” — the mysterious patchwork of underground ecosystems that exists between Earth’s surface and its core. It might sound like an unglamorous world of dirt, darkness and daunting pressure but, according to new research from the DCO, harsh conditions haven’t stopped millions of undiscovered species of microbial life from evolving there since the planet’s birth.

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