This deep-sea mystery is changing our understanding of life

Een prachtig enthousiasmerend verhaal van Karen Lloyd waar de liefde voor haar vak en het leven dat ze bestudeerd vanaf spat. Alleen daarom is het al de moeite van het kijken waard.

Maar ze gaat ook in op een heel fundamenteel element. Tijd en energie. Ze heeft samen met veel collega’s microben gevonden in de bodem van de diepzee die het minste energie nodig hebben om te leven en daardoor is hun celdeling ook zeer traag.

So why is it that the rest of biology moves so fast? Why does a cell die after a day and a human dies after only a hundred years? These seem like really arbitrarily short limits when you think about the total amount of time in the universe. But these are not arbitrary limits. They’re dictated by one simple thing, and that thing is the Sun. Once life figured out how to harness the energy of the Sun through photosynthesis, we all had to speed up and get on day and night cycles. In that way, the Sun gave us both a reason to be fast and the fuel to do it. You can view most of life on Earth like a circulatory system, and the Sun is our beating heart.

… the deep subsurface is like a circulatory system that’s completely disconnected from the Sun. It’s instead being driven by long, slow geological rhythms. There’s currently no theoretical limit on the lifespan of one single cell. As long as there is at least a tiny energy gradient to exploit, theoretically, a single cell could live for hundreds of thousands of years or more, simply by replacing broken parts over time. To ask a microbe that lives like that to grow in our petri dishes is to ask them to adapt to our frenetic, Sun-centric, fast way of living, and maybe they’ve got better things to do than that.

Link: This deep-sea mystery is changing our understanding of life | Karen Lloyd