Biologists have discovered new opportunities for life at the bottom of the oceans

Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Biologists Jeffrey Dick and Everett Shock have found that specific hydrothermal environments on the seabed provide unique habitats. Certain organisms can live in it. This opens up new opportunities for life in the dark at the bottom of the oceans, not only on Earth, but throughout the entire solar system.

Underwater cracks in the ocean floor are called hydrothermal vents. They are like vents from which jets of very high temperature water are emitted.

“Around the hydrothermal vents on the seabed, hot fluids mix with extremely cold seawater, creating an environment in which the creation of life molecules releases energy,” says Shock.

When hot liquid comes into contact with ice water, a specific environment is formed that is suitable for the life of small organisms. Shock’s previous research has shown that biosynthesis of basic cellular building blocks such as amino acids and sugar is beneficial where the vents are composed of ultramafic rocks (igneous rocks with very low silica content). These rocks produce the most hydrogen.

“Where there is life, there is water. But the water needs to be removed from the system for polymerization to be favorable, Dick said. “There are two opposite flows of energy: the release of energy through the biosynthesis of basic building blocks and the energy required for polymerization.”

Polymerization is the process of formation of a high molecular weight substance (polymer) by repeatedly attaching molecules of a low molecular weight substance to active centers in a growing molecule.

By performing calculations, scientists have shown that the total synthesis of almost all proteins in the genome releases energy in the mixing zone of the ventilation opening at the temperature at which this organism grows fastest, about 85 ° C. In a ventilation system that produces less hydrogen, protein synthesis is disadvantageous.

“We should never equate the environment in which we live with one that can be livable,” added Shock, “it opens up new opportunities.”

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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