4 thoughts on “The Deep Biosphere”

  1. I read this with great interest, having followed what little information on “extremophiles” appears in the popular media. Endoliths, which live inside of rocks, have been found at depths of 2 to 3 miles. This is the first I’ve read on the possibly huge expanse of this ecosystem.

    I’ve also followed some of the debate over abiogenic petroleum. David Middleton had an article last Friday over at WUWT on the latest estimate of the extent of the Permian basin’s recoverable oil and gas (it’s enormous). The interesting part was the 212 entry comment war that followed. It’s well worth reading. Middleton was a petroleum geologist, and gives a good account of how petroleum forms and why the raw materials have to be biogenic in origin (the formation of petroleum, &c, is by reactions in the raw materials at the temperature and pressure they find in the crust).

    The possibility that the raw materials may not be of biological origin might just mean that the earth produces petroleum without the need for more sediment deposition. Thus, we might never run out of petroleum.

    If this new biosphere is active, then biogenic petroleum may not be incompatible with continuous, ongoing production by the earth itself. These organisms do reproduce, using whatever resources they find to keep their kind going. Water, carbon, and other substances subducted at the boundaries of tectonic plates might supply what they need. I wonder how one would go about testing such an idea?

    1. With ordinary (non-shale) petroleum it’s clear enough from certain chemical constituents (kerogen) that they’re of ultimately biological origin, but with shale oil such as the Permian basin, there’s really no question — because the “shale” is the original in-situ petroleum source deposits. Ordinary oil has migrated from elsewhere, and arguably who knows where — not so with shale oil.

  2. All of the petroleum is ultimately non biogenic – methane from formation of the Earth.. The only argument is whether it gets cycled through lifeforms or not. Tommy Gold had some pretty convincing arguments that at least some of it didn’t. Finding micro organisms in petroleum isn’t an argument for biogenic origin. They find unoxidized carbon and hydrogen rather tasty.
    Then there is Titan and the tarry stuff on comets. It will be very interesting to see how much water vs hydrocarbons there is at the Lunar poles.

Comments are closed.