Scientists Just Discovered Billions of Organisms Underneath the Land and Sea

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Not in the ocean. Below it.

When I think of life on Earth, I typically picture plants and animals on land, or fish in the ocean. But as it turns out, there's a whole ecosystem beneath the ground and under the sea, one with billions of microorganisms. A team of scientists just investigated this deep down world and were surprised by the results.

The group of 1,200 scientists ranging from 52 countries has been working on a 10 year study to investigate the depths of the Earth. They took samples from underwater drilling sites and holes more than three miles deep to find this "living carbon."

We've all known there was life underground, of course. But we had no idea how much. Scientists are now discovering that this underground ecosystem is twice the size of all the oceans in the world (which themselves take up more surface than land).

In fact, we may be outnumbered. Scientists now think there are somewhere between 15 and 23 billion tonnes of these underground micro-organisms.

As far as they could tell, roughly 70% of bacteria and archaea on Earth are actually underground. These organisms survive in conditions we would find hellish, featuring things like extreme heat and pressure, no light and minimal nutrition. The scientists kept digging to find a place too deep for life, but they just kept finding more life.

“It’s like finding a whole new reservoir of life on Earth,” explained Karen Lloyd, a University of Tennessee professor. “We are discovering new types of life all the time. So much of life is within the Earth rather than on top of it.”