‘Flammable ice’ habitat holds tiny creatures, study finds

Space Science
flammable ice

MYSTERY WIRE — Science doesn’t always find what it’s looking for, but the search leads to other surprising discoveries.

That’s what happened when a search for a new energy source found instead microhabitats for life. The find could have implications for the places we search for extraterrestrial life forms in our solar system and beyond.

The analysis of methane hydrate — known as “flammable ice” — found that microscopic bubbles of oil and water within sheets of frozen gas and ice hold microscopic living creatures. It was completely unexpected. Space.com has a full report:

READ: Could ‘flammable ice’ be the key to discovering alien life?

“In combination with the other evidence collected by my colleagues, my results showed that even under near-freezing temperatures, at extremely high pressures, with only heavy oil and saltwater for food-sources, life was flourishing and leaving its mark,” Dr. Stephen Bowden said. Bowden works at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, in the School of Geosciences.

“The methane in ‘methane hydrate’ is known to form as microbes degrade organic matter on the seafloor,” according to Dr. Glen T. Snyder, lead author of the study. “But what we never expected to find was microbes continuing to grow and produce these spheroids, all of the time while isolated in tiny cold dark pockets of saltwater and oil.”

Nature.com has an abstract of the study.

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