Monday, June 9, 2008


To the scientists' surprise, they found a huge diversity of organisms whose composition swung wildly over time. The 1998 eruption produced 35 species of bacteria, compared with 37 and 57 from 1999 and 2000. But the numbers of archaea -- ancient organisms often found in hot places like those thought to exist on the ancient earth -- went in the opposite direction, declining from 63 to 60 to 52, according to paper by the same authors in the April 2002 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Biologists say the recent discovery of the extremely high-temperature, iron-breathing organism by the University of Massachusetts scientists, who included Dr. Kazem Kashefi, suggests that the dark biosphere runs deeper and hotter than previously documented. And sulfur, they add, may turn out to play a smaller role than previously believed.