One of the fascinating things about research on microorganisms is the diversity of species and environments in which they live. Superheated material at temperatures of up to 400 degrees celsius is extruded from vents in the deep ocean. When it contacts the cold seawater, it produces porous rocks in the form called “chimneys.” This rock differs from rocks on Earth’s surface due to the pressure at those depths. Researchers from Portland State University and the University of Wisconsin found diverse microbes in hydrothermal deposits.
The researchers sampled 40 rock communities and found 3,635 species of microbes in hydrothermal deposits. The researchers were amazed at how diverse these bacterial communities are. The lead researcher Anna-Louise Reysenbach said, “At one volcano, there was so much new diversity that we hadn’t seen elsewhere.” Not only did they find new species, but they also discovered two new phyla and at least 500 new genera. In addition, the scientists found that New Zealand samples differed from those found in other places.
The design of life is so flexible that you can find living things in locations where you would not expect life to survive. It is important to note that scientists are classifying the microbes in hydrothermal deposits using the same phyla, genera, and species categories they use for life on Earth’s surface. The bacteria are not so different from surface bacteria, but they can live in environments of extreme pressures and temperatures.
We know that life forms exist in extremely cold and hot places on Earth. The design of life is exquisite, and these microorganisms support the higher life forms familiar to us. This study implies that life could exist elsewhere in the cosmos if God chose to put it there. However, there is a world of difference between finding a microbe on a distant planet or satellite and finding a sentient alien being as portrayed on the movie screen. The complexity of life and the amazing design of our own bodies shows God’s creative wisdom. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). As we learn more about the diverse places where life can exist, we are amazed at how sophisticated life design is.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
References: National Science Foundation Research News for March 7, 2023, and the journal Microbiome