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Scientists Find Signs Of Life In Mantle Rocks

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Rocks from the mantle of ocean crusts show signs of life, international researchers found. The rocks also exhibit ocean crust movement and indications of the carbon cycle process.

The scientific team went out on an expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, particularly at the Atlantis Massif, which is an underwater mountain that is 4,000 meters or about 13,000 feet tall. They collected rock core samples by drilling through the seabed.

The rock drills used came from the UK and Germany. Although scientific ocean drilling has been around for decades, it is the first time that researchers used such technique in a drilling program.

Expedition Goals

The investigators are looking at identifying how mantle rocks have arrived at the seabed. They also want to know how such rocks react to seawater as this may possibly bring life even in the absence of sunlight. Such finding may help researchers discover other ways life can be formed both on Earth and on other planets.

The researchers would also want to understand more about the status of carbon when seawater and rocks react. Such mechanisms may have effects on climate by segregating carbon.

Signs Of Life In Mantle Rocks

Life or processes suggesting life were indeed found.

Co-chief investigator and scientist Beth Orcutt from Bigelow Laboratory says they have found proof of methane and hydrogen, which are both recognized as food for microbes so it can grow and produce new cells. Such mechanism is basically how the process of life goes.

Similar rocks and gases in the study are also present on other planets. Therefore, Orcutt says that by studying how life prevails in rough situations, they can help the quest to discover life in other parts of the universe.

Importance Of The Expedition

Co-chief scientist Gretchen Früh-Green says their study gives one-of-a-kind information about how the mountain was generated.

"The rocks collected on the expedition provide unique records of deep processes that formed the Atlantis Massif," she says.

The study also provides data about how the rocks react to seawater during serpentinization. Serpentinization pertains to the change of rock properties when water is added to the crystal structures of the minerals found within that rock.

The drilling project is called Expedition 357. The expedition started at Southampton, UK and ran from Oct. 26, 2015 to Dec. 11, 2015.

The scientific team involved in the expedition consists of 15 males and 16 females from 13 different countries.

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