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Oddly Microbial: 86 Million Year-Old Deep Seabed Mystery Cells

Life in a high-pressured environment with practically nothing to eat might be ok for high-fashion models, but it’s an unlikely lifestyle choice for a single cell whose usual overriding goal is to become two cells. Yet the largest living ecosystem on Earth—the deep biosphere—is comprised of microbes so energy starved that the average cell divides only once every thousand or even several thousand years.

Even what these cells are is unclear because they are so different, so distantly related to any of our usual microbial strains, they can’t be typed. Moreover, there isn’t an expert consensus about whether cells in the deep seabed are really “alive” and metabolically active, dormant, or, perhaps, even dead, according to Bo Barker Jørgensen, Director of the Center for Geomicrobiology at Denmark’s Aarhus University.

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