Sunday, 20 May 2012

Tiny Deep-Sea Life Eats Dinosaur-Era Meals

Microbes living in the seabed below the deep ocean are taking the slow-food movement to extremes. According to new research, these microorganisms are subsisting on nutrients first laid down when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

Nutrient-carrying sediment rarely makes it to the deep seafloor at the North Pacific Gyre far north of Hawaii. If a grain of sand falls to the seabed, it will be another 1,000 years before another grain lands on top of it, said Hans Røy, aquatic ecologist at Aarhus University in Denmark and leader of the new study, published Thursday (May 17) in the journal Science. And yet, an expedition to the North Pacific turned up populations of incredibly slow-living microbes in these depths.

"It's pretty amazing, because if you look at the deepest parts, these are layers that were laid down back when the dinosaurs were walking on this planet, and there has been no input of new organic material since that," Røy told LiveScience. "They've been chewing on the same bone for 86 million years."

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