Oldest feast

Published: Sunday 15 January 1995

A British geologist has found the first living proof of the idea that life on earth may have begun in hot subterranean crucibles. Five hundred metres below the Sea of Japan, John Parkes of Bristol University has discovered bacteria feasting on a 10 million-year-old compost. And in extremely hostile conditions -- temperatures of 650 C and pressures of 275 atmospheres (BBC Wildlife, Vol 12, No 11).

Parkes says that the ancestors of the bacteria lived on the seabed and were gradually buried by tonnes of sediments. And as they went deeper and deeper, they adapted to rising temperatures and pressures.

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