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Revived From the Deep

Researchers in Japan have awoken microbes that may have lain dormant under the ocean floor for millions of years, New Scientist reports.

After a few weeks, researchers led by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology Fumio Inagaki found that the bacteria they isolated from hundreds of feet below the Pacific Ocean began to take up carbon and nitrogen isotopes they'd provided as nutrients, as they report this week in Nature Communications. Because of the dense packing of the mud, lack of nutrients, and sunlight there, the researchers suspect these bacteria may have been there since the sediment layers were deposited, just "hanging on" as Nagissa Mahmoudi from McGill University, who was not involved in the study, describes it at the New York Times.

A 16S rRNA gene-based genetic analysis of the bacteria indicated they largely hailed from Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, and Deltaproteobacteria.

Whether the cells the researchers unearthed are the same as the ones that got trapped in the sediment back in the time of the dinosaur may be "down to philosophers," New Scientist says, as the cells likely have made changes and fixes to themselves countless times over years.