Geomicrobiology Research Group back in South African Gold Mine
The Geomicrobiology Research Group is back in the South African mines this summer. Undergrad Melody Lindsey ’13, Grad student Cara Magnabosco, and Postdoc Maggie Lau had the opportunity to share a photomontage of their work. Their photos were taken at the Beatrix Gold Mine; the site where the nematode H. mephisto, endearingly titled “devil worm,” was found. The Group often has to descend to the depths of 3 kilometers (approx. 2 miles) and hike along miles of difficult terrain to get to designated locations in order to collect liquid lab samples and document life forms as you see them doing within their images.
Recall that Tullis Onstott and his team of researchers, including Gaetan Borgonie of the University of Ghent in Belgium, created a startling discovery of life last year, when they announced the existence of microscopic roundworms known as nematodes living nearly two-and-a-half miles beneath the Earth's surface in several South African gold mines. The worms are roughly a quarter of the diameter of the head of a pin. Although nematode species have been known to live as far as 20 feet below the surface, scientists generally assumed there was no reason to believe the organisms would be found anywhere near the depths of those found by Onstott's team, he noted. The discovery, which was published in the June 2 issue of the journal Nature in an article titled "Nematoda From the Terrestrial Deep Subsurface of South Africa," has attracted the attention of national media outlets such as The Washington Post, National Geographic and Time. Moreover, it has raised questions about not only the possibility of even more complex organisms miles below the Earth's surface, but also the likelihood of life far into space. The project was supported by funding sources including the National Science Foundation.
Videos from the mines:
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For more information about "Devil Worms":