Infographic: The Search for Life Below the Surface
Infographic: The Search for Life Below the Surface

Infographic: The Search for Life Below the Surface

The recent expansion of large-scale scientific drilling programs, combined with intensified efforts to take advantage of existing portals into the crust, has led to an explosion of research on the deep biosphere.

Oct 1, 2018
Catherine Offord
© AL GRANBERG
1
Deep-sea, manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles collect fluid samples that exit natural points of access to the oceanic crust, such as underwater volcanoes or hydrothermal vents. These samples contain microbes living in the crust beneath.
2
Drilling holes into the Earth’s crust allows retrieval of rock and sediment cores reaching kilometers below the surface. The holes can then be filled with monitoring equipment to make long-term measurements of the deep biosphere.
3Deep mines provide access points for researchers to journey into the Earth’s continental crust, from where they can drill even deeper into the ground or search for microbes living in water seeping directly out of the rock.

Oceanic Crust
Continental Crust
Thickness6–10 kilometers30–50 kilometers
AreaAbout 60 percent of Earth’s surfaceAbout 40 percent of Earth’s surface
AgeRarely more than 200 million yearsUp to 4 billion years
Water contentHighLow

Read the full story