The scientific community is once again stunned by a discovery that could change the way we think about the possibility of life in the most extreme conditions. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered magnetically sensitive bacteria at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the ocean. This discovery confirms that these microorganisms, capable of responding to the Earth’s magnetic field, can exist not only in terrestrial and shallow water environments, but also in the deep ocean.
Magnetotactic bacteria, as scientists call them, possess special structures called magnetosomes. These iron crystals, surrounded by a protective membrane, allow the bacteria to orient themselves along the magnetic field lines of the Earth. Thus, they become a kind of living compass, able to determine the direction to the north or south. In addition, these bacteria play an important role in the exchange cycle of vital elements such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.
To detect and study these bacteria, the researchers used the remotely operated HYPER-DOLPHIN apparatus, which was able to extract samples directly from the vent of a hydrothermal vent at a depth of 2,700 meters. This provided scientists with valuable data on the adaptation of these microorganisms to extreme conditions.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are not only a unique environment for various marine organisms, but also a potential analogue of conditions on other planets. Especially interesting is that the environment where magnetotactic bacteria were found is very similar to the one that supposedly existed on Mars 3 billion years ago, when there was still water on its surface. This opens new perspectives for studying the possibility of life on other planets.
One of the authors of the study, Yohei Suzuki, emphasized that the device of magnetosomes in these bacteria was very primitive. This indicates that they have changed little over many millennia and may be related to the ancestors of magnetotactic bacteria that appeared on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. Thus, these microorganisms represent a valuable artifact that helps us to understand the origin of life on Earth and possible life forms on other planets.
The discovery of magnetically sensitive bacteria at the bottom of the Mariana Trench is of great scientific importance and could be a key step in understanding the origin of life on Earth and other planets. It opens new horizons for the study of extremophilic organisms and their adaptation to different conditions. In addition, this discovery may have important practical applications in biotechnology and medicine.