A Subsurface Biota in the Archean?
When: May 20, 2003 12AM PDT
Though a large subsurface biota is thought to exist on
Earth now, it is unclear whether this has always been so. The issue is,
however, important because early in planetary history, subsurface
environments might have been more habitable than surface sites and indeed
might have formed refuges for life against the vagaries of meteoritic
bombardment. It is even possible that if the earliest organisms were
thermophilic chemolithotrophs, life might have originated in a subsurface
hydrothermal setting. Here I critically examine the empirical evidence for
the existence of a subsurface biota early in Earth’s history during the
Archean era, concluding that there are strong but not totally compelling
data supporting the occupation of subsurface habitats by the mid-Archean.
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