A team of NASA-supported scientists have provided detailed information about adaptations used by lineages of the bacteria Aminicenantia to survive in the Earth’s crust beneath the ocean floor. The study examined samples taken from the eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the coast of the Pacific Northwest in North America.

The study provides details about the mechanisms that the two lineages use to generate energy and survive. The results indicate that the organisms have adapted to scavenge organic carbon from the surrounding environment. The availability of organic carbon in the oceanic crust is very limited, and the researchers posit that supplies of organic carbon are provided through seawater recharge and recycled from dead organisms.

The data also suggests that one lineage examined in the study uses mechanisms that retain some characteristics of early life on Earth. Other lineages contain defenses that help protect them from viruses.

The study, “Life strategies for Aminicenantia in subseafloor oceanic crust,” was published in the ISME journal.