Monday, May 21, 2012

Bacteria live long by slowing to a crawl

Barely alive, but doing well

We've learned in the last few decades that life can push into environments we thought impossible.  But recent finds 30 m below the Pacific floor showed that we also have to think about time scale as an environment.  The bacteria being studied now slow life down far more than we thought possible - as if they were "in suspended animation," as one scientists put it, except they live - just barely.  The previous generation of scientists, with less sophisticated tests, might well have found these creatures and decided they were merely corpses. We have no idea how old the individual cells are - a thousand years, ten thousand, more? Endlessly fascinating.

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