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No. 79: Jan-Feb 1992

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Deeply-buried life

Florida-Bahamas carbonate platform
West-to-east profile of the Florida-Bahamas carbonate platform.
Deep in the Gulf of Mexico, along the edge of the great carbonate platform that breaks the surface as Florida and the Bahamas, thrives a diverse community of animals that does not depend upon the sun for energy. Instead, they feast on carbohydrates provided by symbiotic bacteria. Since there are no ocean-floor vents spewing mutrients and hot water in the area, scientists have wondered where these bacteria obtain the methane and sulfides that nourish them. C.S. Martens and C.K. Paull, of the University of North Carolina, propose that bacteria living miles down within the carbonate platform generate the methane and sulfides as they consume organic matter buried long ago in the limestone. These excreted, energy rich gases and fluids seep upward and outward, sustaining biological communities along the edge of the platform. (Monastersky, R.; "Buried Rock, Bacteria Yield Deep-Sea Feast," Science News, 140:103, 1991.)

Comment. (1) Looking far back in time, the sun was, of course, the energy source, because it helped create the buried organic matter. (2) However, there is always the possibility that the methane seeping out of the earth is abiogenic. See BLACK GOLD -- AGAIN under Geology. (3) How deeply into the crust has life penetrated? The Soviets reported bacteria at 12 kilometers in their drill hole on the Kola Peninsula.

From Science Frontiers #79, JAN-FEB 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987