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No. 67: Jan-Feb 1990

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Really-deep rivers

"Ecologists studying rivers have discovered a vast subterranean world filled with dozens of previously unknown species of worms, shrimp, insects and microscopic organisms that live in the groundwater below the stream channel and sometimes for miles on each side."

The quotation above once again evokes the concept of "crevicular structure" in the crust. The crevicular world is that immense, unappreciated maze of underground space created by cracks in the rocks, solution channels, permeable gravels, and so on. In the article reviewed here, a crevicular realm has been discovered underneath river beds. But this is just a special case of a subterranean world found many places beneath the surface -- even under the continental shelves. The surface waters we see are just (to use an aquatic metaphor) the tip of the iceberg!

Sub-river life lives far under the beds of the great Alaskan rivers and even small desert streams in Arizona. Preliminary exploration has shown that fluid-and life-filled crevicular structure exists at least 30 feet under river beds and may extend several miles to either side. For example, water wells drilled two miles from the Flathead River, in Montana, yield immature stoneflies. J. Stanford, Director of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station states, "We have basically enlarged the concept of what a river is." He and his colleagues have found at least a dozen new species in the crevicular world beneath the bed of the Flathead River.

(Anonymous; "Life-Filled Subterranean World Found Flowing under Rivers," San Francisco Chronicle, November 24, 1989. Cr. J. Covey.)

Comment. There are many instances of fish being found in wells far from surface water.

From Science Frontiers #67, JAN-FEB 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss