Scientists have identified a new species of microscopic worms living in the ground below South African mines, isolated from fracture water gushing up from miles below the Earth's surface. It is the first multicellular organism to be found at such depths.
Halicephalobus mephisto
Property of the University Ghent, Belgium - Gaetan Borgonie
The discovery of the tiny nematode (named Halicephalobus mesphisto after Mephistopheles, a literary nickname for the Devil), published in this week's issue of linkurl:Nature,; challenges the assumption that deep subsurface ecosystems cannot support multicellular life and may have implications in the search for life on other planets."Up until this time, all these [deep subsurface] systems were thought to be prokaryotic," said linkurl:Jim Fredrickson,; a biologist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who was not involved in the research. The paper makes "a very compelling argument" that such environments could also house more complex organisms, he added....
Gaetan Borgonie sampling fracture water
Courtesy of Gaetan Borgonie
G. Borgonie, et al., "Nematoda from the terrestrial deep subsurface of South Africa," Nature, 474:79-82, 2011.

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