Zombie Microbe Colonies Thrive in Ocean, Don't Get Much Work Done

Zombie MicrobesFor years, researchers have known about Archaea -- single-celled organisms genetically distinct from eukaryotes that thrive in the most inhospitable locations of the deep ocean.  Now, scientists from Penn State have discovered zombie archaea who use such small amounts of energy that they may as well be undead.

While the average microbe will divide and reproduce every 20 minutes, these tiny critters may divide only every 100 to 2,000 years.  "In essence, these microbes are almost, practically dead by our normal standards," says Professor Christopher H. House. "They metabolize a little, but not much."

In addition to inflicting terror on a very tiny scale, these organisms may make up to 30% of the Earth's biomass and might serve as an example of what we could find on other planets or moons. 

Professor Jennifer F. Biddle postulates that these microbes could survive major cataclysmic events such as asteroid impacts or iPhone shortages.  In effect they act as a refuge for life to begin anew and spread zombie joy around the world.

Most interestingly, Biddle notes that researchers do not know how these microbes die.  "It is a simple question that we cannot answer."

[Thanks to reader Derek K. for the tip] .

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