Petroleum Seeps Support the Deep Biosphere to the Seafloor

petroleum seeps

Viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic organisms control the Earth’s existing resources and functions, from the most of our energy sources, food, to the air we breathe. An approximate one-third od our planet’s microbes are covered, sunk in sediments deep underneath the ocean floor. Recently, researchers have explained that these “deep biosphere” organisms can’t stay in one place, but are bubbling up to the seafloor along with some fluids from sunk petroleum seeps.

These ‘travelers’ in petroleum seeps are increasing the microbial accumulation that arises at the ocean floor, influencing deep-sea procedures, such as the carbon cycling. Researchers comprised such ideas and more in a study that they published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Petroleum Seeps Research and Discoveries

The recent research confirms that petroleum seeps lead life from the deep biosphere to the seafloor. Reaching such insights, the team of researchers needed first to examine 172 ocean floor sediment samples from the east part of the Gulf of Mexico, collected back in 2011. A portion of these samples included migrated gaseous hydrocarbons, the main elements of gas and oil.

These petroleum seeps on the seafloor harbored different microbial accumulations featuring archaea and bacteria that are well-known tenants of deep biosphere deposits. Researcher Casey Hubert from the University of Calgary stated: “These results show that it’s more of a two-way street; the microbes coming back up offer a window to life buried deeper below.”

The research also details a novel dimension to comprehend the metabolic diversity of seabed petroleum seeps microbial accumulations. Also, one of the strengths of the study is represented by the number of samples examined, letting steady statistical inferences of the microbes found in the petroleum seeps. Because the ocean floor is so challenging to access, investigations of deep-sea ecosystems are somehow limited by the quality and the number of samples.