The Enceinte Ancient Life
In a rare first, deep life underneath the Earth’s surface has been explored in India.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur have triggered a sensation by claiming that they found evidence of life in India dating back at least 2.5 billion years! According to researchers, the first signs of life have been found in the form of microbial cells – found at a depth of 3km – in the Deccan region (or the southern part of the country).
The research work of the Indian scientists was published in the December edition of online open access journal Nature. The news stunned the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences that had asked an IIT team – led by Dr Pinaki Sar, senior faculty of Biotechnology Department – to probe the beginning of life in the South Asian nation.
Speaking at a media conference in the third week of January, Dr Sar said that majority of the microorganisms, found by the scientists, were bacteria that date back to a time when Earth’s crust was still unstable. During this period, earthquakes – punctuated with volcanic eruptions – were routine, he added. According to Dr Sar, the crust would intermittently cool between 2.5 billion years and 65 million years ago. However, they would be shaken up again with fresh eruptions and lava flow. These cool interludes were the time when the first life forms – in the form of microbes – started making their appearances! He claimed that India’s oldest rocks – granite and basalt – are located in the Deccan Traps and these rocks were home to the first life forms.
However, the depths of these ancient rocks don’t have oxygen, water, organics or light to support life. Then, how did the microbes survive for so long?
Dr Sar stressed that the bacteria were very intelligent, as they knew how to survive by using only carbon and other inorganic sources. “The rock cores we dug out from three boreholes were investigated and we have been able to prove microbial existence. It is obvious that they fought extreme conditions to stay alive and multiply,” stated the senior scientist.
Meanwhile, Dr Sar revealed that they would try to find out whether the organisms are still alive in the next phase of research. “We cannot immediately confirm that,” he insisted, calling the microbes ‘extremophiles’ as they managed to survive extreme conditions.
Experts have opined that the latest revelation will encourage historians to trace the root of the great Indian civilisation.
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