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No. 43: Jan-Feb 1986

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Life Seeks Out Energy Sources Wherever They May Be

Life is opportunistic; it siphons off energy wherever it can find it. That life utilizes solar energy we all know. And, of course, humans have tapped the atom for energy. In just the past few years, remarkable colonies of life forms have been discovered congregated around deep-sea hydrothermal vents where sunlight is essentially nonexistent. Still more recently, similar life forms have been found clustered around oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico. As at the hydro-thermal vents, the clams, worms, crabs, and other organisms depend mainly upon the ability of bacteria to chemosynthesize -- the primary energy source being hydrogen sulfide in the vented water.

(Paull, C.K., et al; "Stable Isotope Evidence for Chemosynthesis in an Abyssal Seep Community," Nature, 317:709, 1985; Also: Weisburd, S.; "Clams and Worms Fueled by Gas?" Science News, 128:231, 1985.)

Comment. Since the earth's crust seems honeycombed with fissures and rivers of life-sustaining fluids, subterranean life may be as common as the abyssal chemosynthetic life at the vents and seeps. This versatility of life signals us that we should look for life wherever there is energy of any kind.

From Science Frontiers #43, JAN-FEB 1986. � 1986-2000 William R. Corliss