Microbes, insects, and bugs are everywhere. They are found at the top of Mount Everest, attached to marine corals in the oceans, even in hotel beds around the world annoyingly.
Now new critters have been identified underground in two highly unlikely places---an insect discovered deep in a cave over a mile deep near the Black Sea and an ancient bacterial colony buried six feet beneath a hyper-arid desert in South America. These bugs definitely deserve the designation of an extremophile.
The first discovery was made by researchers from Chile and Spain when strange bacteria and primitive microorganisms were found living in a layer below hyper-saline surface soils of the Atacama Desert. According to one of the field scientists: "We have named it a 'microbial oasis' because we found microorganisms developing in a habitat that was rich in rock-salt and other highly hygroscopic compounds.” Hygroscopic materials attract and hold water gathered from the surrounding environment that created this underground oasis in the super-dry Chilean desert soils.
The second amazing deep discovery came from a cave located near the shores of the Black Sea in Abkhazia. The cave’s deepest point is over 6000 feet below the surface. The newly discovered bug is an arthropod not unlike some insects and crayfish from terrestrial environments. However, this species is a wingless springtail, lives in total darkness, and lacks eyes. It feeds on fungi and decaying matter and is the deepest organism that has ever been discovered.
Atacama Desert Underground Microbial Oasis Deep Cave Arthropod
(credit: CAB & Catholic University of the North) (credit: University of Aveiro, Portugal)
Not only do these strange organisms provide additional evidence of the amazing diversity of Life on Earth, they also point the way to exploring for life in alien environments elsewhere.
Who knows what sort of strange microbe colonies or bizarre crawling insects might be lurking under the rocks and sands of Mars or beneath the ice layers of Jupiter's moon Europa. We still need to develop ways to dig deep down into alien world and be able to conduct any living discoveries. This is an engineering and biological challenge worth exploring.