Posts Tagged ‘bacteria’
In news likely to unsettle “young earthers”– the plurality of Americans who believe that the earth, and life on it, were created by God all at once about 10,000 years ago– scientists have discovered 34,000-year-old organisms…
It’s a tale that has all the trappings of a cult 1960s sci-fi movie: Scientists bring back ancient salt crystals, dug up from deep below Death Valley for climate research. The sparkling crystals are carefully packed away until, years later, a young, unknown researcher takes a second look at the 34,000-year-old crystals and discovers, trapped inside, something strange. Something … alive.
Thankfully this story doesn’t end with the destruction of the human race, but with a satisfied scientist finishing his Ph.D.
“It was actually a very big surprise to me,” said Brian Schubert, who discovered ancient bacteria living within tiny, fluid-filled chambers inside the salt crystals.
Salt crystals grow very quickly, imprisoning whatever happens to be floating — or living — nearby inside tiny bubbles just a few microns across, akin to naturally made, miniature snow-globes.
“It’s permanently sealed inside the salt, like little time capsules,” said Tim Lowenstein, a professor in the geology department at Binghamton University and Schubert’s advisor at the time…
The key to the microbes’ millennia-long survival may be their fellow captives — algae, of a group called Dunaliella.
“The most exciting part to me was when we were able to identify the Dunaliella cells in there,” Schubert said, “because there were hints that could be a food source.”
With the discovery of a potential energy source trapped alongside the bacteria, it has begun to emerge that, like an outlandish Dr. Seuss invention (hello, Who-ville), these tiny chambers could house entire, microscopic ecosystems…
As we ponder the prospect of seasoning our popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1809 that the first U.S. geology book of importance was read by William MacLure, a Scot who’d immigrated to the U.S. ten years earlier, before the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, Pa. Observations on the Geology of the United States, which was published in revised form in 1817 and contained the first chart of United States territory that divided the land into rock types, was the first true geological map of any part of North America and one of the world’s earliest geological maps. (MacLure’s reading predated William Smith’s first geological map of England by six years.)