Research Points to Geochemical Source of Life Beneath Ocean Floor

Here’s a bit of a puzzle that I thought I would bring up. I came across an article that discusses findings of research conducted by scientists on board the JOIDES Resolution, a research ship that collects core samples of rocks from the oceanic crust beneath the ocean floor.

Dr. Mark A. Lever of Center for Geomicrobiology at Aarhus University, Denmark reports on finding life in the porous basalt that makes up much the oceanic crust that is fundamentally different from life formed through photosynthesis. He states,

“We collected rock samples 55 kilometres from the nearest outcrop where seawater is entering the basalt. Here the water in the basaltic veins has a chemical composition that differs fundamentally from seawater, for instance, it is devoid of oxygen produced by photosynthesis. The microorganisms we found are native to basalt . . .

“It all began when I extracted DNA from the rock samples we had brought up. To my great surprise, I identified genes that are found in methane-producing microorganisms. We subsequently analysed the chemical signatures in the rock material, and our work with carbon isotopes provided clear evidence that the organic material did not derive from dead plankton introduced by seawater, but was formed within the oceanic crust.”

I’m not entirely sure what the ramifications of a finding like this are, but it seems to be evidence that there may be much more to life on earth than is normally supposed. It seems to tie in with the school of thought that suggests that petroleum may be abiotic in nature — somehow formed from deep within the earth, rather than being formed by decomposed and transformed organic matter. This report suggests a geochemical source of life and energy, one that is not normally discussed in the scientific realm.

To me, this all goes to show that there is so much yet to be discovered about life, matter, energy — and of course that is the focus of this site, and something that has been discussed here many times.

The complete article from EurekAlert can be read here. A full report has been published in the March 15th issue of the journal Science. An abstract can be found here.(Subscription is required for full text)

  • Roger Bird

    I think that we have a semantic problem. When “abiotic” was used first in this discussion, I think that it meant that some or all of our petroleum was not the result of the breakdown and compression of surface plants and animals. It was assumed by those who invented the use of the term “abiotic” that living critters were not involved with this petroleum that oozed up from deep within the Earth. The word “abiotic” literally means “without life” or without the help of life. But this article is saying that this “abiotic” petroleum, if such exists, is in fact not abiotic, but is in fact biotic, but from life forms that are completely separate from the surface plants and animals of old which have always been assumed to be the source of our petroleum.

    Perhaps we need to invent a word that would mean “different life” or “subterranean life”, like perhaps “sub-biotic”. This new data point of this article may be indicating that some or all petroleum is “sub-biotic”. If you have a better word, I am ready to accept it. (:->)

    Truly abiotic petroleum probably exists only on the outer planets on orbs like Neptune and Triton. But it is possible that petroleum is abiotic, biotic, and “sub-biotic”. There is no good reason that an petrologically ignorant person like myself can think of that petroleum would not have all three sources.

  • carlolunaa

    Really interesting topic! I would like to make a contribution. According to the following hypothesis in the Earth’s mantle are all conditions and elements for creating primordial water of the oceans and the formation of living organisms

    January 18th, 2013 at 5:01 AM
    dear Andrea
Let me express two other concepts
    Mechanical explanations of gravitation
    “Similar to Newton, but mathematically in greater detail, Bernhard Riemann assumed in 1853 that the gravitational aether is an incompressible fluid and normal matter represents sinks in this aether. So if the aether is destroyed or absorbed proportionally to the masses within the bodies, a stream arises and carries all surrounding bodies into the direction of the central mass. Riemann speculated that the absorbed aether is transferred into another world or dimension.Another attempt to solve the energy problem was made by Ivan Osipovich Yarkovsky in 1888. Based on his aether stream model, which was similar to that of Riemann, he argued that the absorbed aether might be converted into new matter, leading to a mass increase of the celestial bodies.
Criticism: As in the case of Le Sage’s theory, the disappearance of energy without explanation violates the energy conservation law. Also some drag must arise, and no process which leads to a creation of matter is known.”
    no process which leads to a creation of matter is known?
    But the confirmation that the Higgs boson exists, spending billions of euro, what has it brought? to demonstrate the creation of matter from the Higgs field (ether)
At the high pressure conditions of the Earth’s lower mantle, the pyroxene enstatite, MgSiO3, transforms into a denser perovskite-structured polymorph; this phase may be the most common mineral in the Earth.[3] This phase has the orthorhombically distorted perovskite structure (GdFeO3-type structure) that is stable at pressures from ~24 GPa to ~110 GPa
material properties
Perovskite materials exhibit many interesting and intriguing properties from both the theoretical and the application point of view. Colossal magnetoresistance, ferroelectricity, superconductivity, charge ordering, spin dependent transport, high thermopower and the interplay of structural, magnetic and transport properties are commonly observed features in this family. These compounds are used as sensors and catalyst electrodes in certain types of fuel cells[4] and are candidates for memory devices and spintronics applications.[5]
The most common synthesis often involve processes of calcination or overheating of mixtures of metal salts. The enormous interest for applications has led the research, not only in the discovery and characterization of new synthetic perovskites but also of new synthetic methods with different reagents and catalysts that make production more economical on an industrial scale. The La0.8Sr0.2CoO3 oxide (abbreviated as LSCO) was prepared using the properties of adsorption of the cellulose,”
it seems to me that this material can trigger LENR processes in the mantle.

    January 26th, 2013 at 8:42 AM
    Dear Andrea

    Allow me to further develop the argument relating to the transmutations 
that occur in the Earth’s mantle . I will try to formulate a hypothesis on the origin of the oceans.
It is possible that an endothermic reaction due to the piezoelectricity of the crystals of the mantle,
for the presence of oxygen (the mantle is formed for the 44.8% oxygen content of the silicates) and hydrogen (…materialization of ether?), is the cause of the genesis of ocean water?
According to this hypothesis the deep hydrothermal vents do not recycle then only the water of the oceans above but Introduce primordial water brought up from the deep mantle.. if the earth is expanding this seems to me a good explanation on the formation of the oceans.

    • Peter Roe

      “the absorbed aether might be converted into new matter, leading to a mass increase of the celestial bodies”

      I have always had an (only partially rational) attachment to the ‘expanding earth’ theory as an attempt to explain how large dinosaurs that calculations indicate could not have supported their own weight, did in fact exist.

      Unfortunately, subduction zones and mountain building present a near-fatal argument against this otherwise attractive idea, but there are some who argue that these my have alternative origins:

      Perhaps it is possible that some factor other than mass may cause gravity (and possibly other cosmological ‘constants’) to vary with time?

      • carlolunaa


        Certainly the earth is expanding. certainly relativity is a false theory. Certainly there ether and the nourishment of the earth.
        Certainly in the Earth’s mantle Lern phenomena occur due to the piezoelectric minerals. Of course, the mantle is the seat of the birth of ocean water. Certainly, as demonstrated by Reich in “bionic experiments” the life developed from inorganic elements in the presence of water and heat. Surely this is the origin of oil.

  • Curbina

    I have recently finished an online course of astrobiology and I can say that the best summary of our current knowledge about is “We have a lot of guesses but the possibilities are son endless that we really don’t know”.

    Hence, still after 200 years of Scientific Breakthroughs, we are still in the outer layer of the onion.

    • georgehants

      If only a few more “scientists” where as wise and honest as yourself.

      • Curbina

        Well George, I think that at least in Astrobiology, people are really aware of this. BTW, the research commented in this post by Frank is indeed astrobiological research. Every single new discovery in this field mostly challenges all what is “known”.

        • georgehants

          Curbina, agreed and would it not be Wonderful if all of science agreed that we know very little and allowed the mystery and fun of finding out to shine through to our young scientists.

          • Curbina

            One can only keep hoping that the flame that drove the great scientific advances of the late XIX century is found again by those that have become so certain of everything that have lost their north.

          • psi

            Hear hear.

  • georgehants

    The Hindu
    News » National
    United Nations, March 22, 2013
    1,800 kids worldwide die daily due to unsafe water: U.N. report

  • Morganism

    Thomas Golds “Deep Hot Biosphere”

    There are many archea families that split off iron, sulphur,etc.
    And much less discussion of the methanotrophs, that actually produce methane, than the methanogens, which consume it.

    It is also the the biggest bet by these researchers that the major groups yet to be discovered is going to be a fungi.

    That these families also form electrical cables on the ocean bottom to transfer electrons to power chemical reactions to other group members, shows that extensive chains of biochem are most likely the manufacturers of all the platinum group metals, and all but the sedimentary collections of the salts.
    (bacterial cables)

    Most of the parametals are now believed to be formed as nano particles by halobacteria and then wicked into larger cracks by water.
    These “hydrologic deposits” were actually thought to be high pressure/heat water thru rock cracks,collecting metals, but there has never been found a (chem) pathway for that. Now the aussies have published a study that shows that gold deposits are consolidations of these nanoparticles by earthquakes !

    Pretty cool.

    There is NO proof that coal is even reduced from organics. Fossils cell walls not-withstanding, it must just be an easy capture for carbon to capture the methane in organics if the halobacteria are processing it.
    Oil is waste for them.
    Gold points out that ALL of the coal so far found, is ABOVE an oil deposit, and that the biomass/coal is just a sponge for methane leaking UP. Is quite possible Canada knows this, and is getting us to invest/buy the low quality coal and tar sands, to finance the removal of the overburden, and will later harvest the deep, sweet crude.
    And sell that at a premium.

    Every, single, deep well drilled has found SOME methane. Everywhere.

    There is also a big problem with subduction, to even get water down there now appears unlikely, as there needs to be a lava “lens” to produce the malleability to deform and slip enough to allow bedrock to deform. This is supposed to completely reduce/remove the water from the rock. ( costa rica, and nicaragua, this month. also see eclogite)

    The other fascinating thing with the Halo’s , is the fact that one antartic researcher has found methanogens in the center of every single ancient ice core. These have been converting ancient methane gas into CO2, seriously messing with the paleo gas record. He found the same thing in the greenland cores too. So this points to the “methane gun” hypothosis as the most likely driver of the original reducing atmo fluctuations.