Publication: Nematoda from the terrestrial deep subsurface of South Africa

Publié le
28 juin 2011

Nematodes found at over 1 km below ground.


Nature magazine has published a unique discovery: Nematodes that live and survive at a depth of over 1000 metres below the surface. The find can partly be attributed to scientists from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR. Until now only single-celled organisms had been found at such a depth. “We actually assumed that multicellular organisms wouldn’t be able to survive in the extreme conditions that exist at 1000 metres-plus,” says Hans Helder of the Nematology chair group at Wageningen University. “In this research, however, various types of nematodes were found in a mine in South Africa, including one entirely new species that has been named Halicephalobus mephisto.”

The nematodes discovered are a species that feed on single-celled organisms, especially underground bacteria. They can survive at very high temperatures, reproduce asexually, and live in the water film that covers soil particles. Isotopic research showed that the water in which the nematodes were found has been underground for at least 3,000 years.

The scientists say that their find is also relevant to the study of life on other planets as we can no longer exclude the possibility of multicellular organisms developing in extreme conditions.