A scientist has discovered 34,000-year-old bacteria buried underneath a Californian desert.
The discovery was made after researchers dug up salt crystals below Death Valley in Eastern California for climate research.
Ancient microbes were found trapped inside tiny, fluid-filled chambers within the crystals.
‘It was actually a very big surprise to me,’ said Brian Schubert, who made the discovery.
‘They’re alive, but they’re not using any energy to swim around, they’re not reproducing,’ he told OurAmazingPlanet. ‘They’re not doing anything at all except maintaining themselves.’
Schubert, who is now an assistant researcher at the University of Hawaii, said the bacteria was shrunken and small, and suspended in a type of hibernation state.
The reason for the microbes’ astounding life span appears to be due to the fact that they were trapped alongside the algae of a group called Dunaliella.
‘The most exciting part to me was when we were able to identify the Dunaliella cells in there, because there were hints that could be a food source,’ he added.
Tim Lowenstein, a professor in the geology department at Binghamton University says that new research indicates this process can occur in modern saline lake.
‘It’s permanently sealed inside the salt, like little time capsules,’ said Lowenstein.
The new findings, along with details of Schubert’s work, are published in the January 2011 edition of GSA Today, the publication of the Geological Society of America.
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