Wednesday, December 4, 2019

SearchResearch Challenge (12/4/19): Does anything live deep in the earth?

As you know, I love diving... 

... and although I never go much below 100 feet (33 meters), I'm fascinated by the creatures that live way down deep in the sea.  They're interesting, wonderful, and exceedingly strange.  

But... as I was talking with a friend yesterday I realized that while I have a pretty good idea of the animals that live in the bottom of the sea, I have NO IDEA what animals might live deep in the earth. 

Any creatures down there? 

That made me curious:  Does anything live down there?  

You can see where this is going.  It's time for us to go deep.   

1.  What, if anything, lives deep in the earth? I know moles, earthworms, ants, and gophers live in the earth--but they don't go very deep.  Are there any creatures that live REALLY deep in the earth? If so, what are they like?   

How would you start a search like this?  

I'm really curious about two aspects of this: 
     (a) How far down in the earth does life exist?
     (b) How do you (the researcher) know? 

What counts as a credible source for an SRS Challenge like this?  (Few of us are going to actually go check it out, so what makes you believe a particular source?)  

I'm really curious to see what we can discover.  

How far down into the planet does life exist?  

Let us know what you find.  Be sure to say HOW you found it, and WHY you believe the source!  

Search on!  


  1. Halicephalobus mephisto, a nematode lives 0.8 miles (1.3 km) underground. Of interest is that its DNA has been decoded - published just over a week ago.

    However according to it's not the deepest creature. That honour goes to a species found in water 2.2 miles (3.6km) down in the TauTona mine, where temperatures are around 48 °C.

    Even this is not the deepest life on earth (or under the earth!). In October 2014, researchers from Yale University reported evidence of bacteria living as deep as 12 miles (19km) underground. They examined rocks on Lopez Island off the coast of Washington, US. The rocks contained unusually high levels of a lightweight form of carbon, which is a hallmark of microbes that produce methane. (Also from the BBC article above).

    How did I find this. I started by thinking where life would exist deep down and thought about caves. So my first search was "deep cave animals" - and the BBC article was in the first page. There was also a wikipedia article on subterranian fauna that gave a technical term: troglobiont. However the BBC article is likely to be reliable because of their editorial integrity.

    I did follow up out of curiosity with a search for Halicephalobus mephisto, which is how I found out about the news of its DNA getting decoded. I also did a search for "Nematode Tau Tona" as I wanted to verify the report of the other nematode. I focused on articles from after 2011 when H Mephisto was discovered - and came across a New Scientist article - which mentioned a Nature article -

    So I'm happy with these - and don't think you can get more reliable as sources.

    Another source for anybody interested in life deep underground is the Deep Carbon Observatory at - although I don't know how reliable this all is (although I think it will be). Some research is also relevant to life on other planets - as can be seen in this article. and - both OK as sources.

  2. It is as always very interesting. And, it is something that we usually don't think about.

    I once saw a documentary but was about very hard living conditions, kind of like acidity, sulfur and similar. So, to answer the questions I'll do a SearchReSearch as don't have a clue. As a credible source I think NASA, NatGeo, Discovery could give us answers. Also tree's roots. It is not what we are looking for, but also something that sounds interesting.

    My first query could be this one: [how far below there is life in earth] Why I believe in the sources I will find? I think depends on the name of the source and they expertise. Also there must be a confirmation or if it is an exclusive, then many others (as it is big news) would mention that source too.

    2018:Scientists Discover Staggering Amount of Life Deep Below Earth's Surface Source: Discover site. They are very credible and famous. Also article mentions: "...Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a collaborative network of more than 1,000 geologists, chemists, physicists and biologists around the globe that is uncovering the life buried within the Earth..." That is a good amount of people and the group sounds like very trustworthy.

    “The deep biosphere.” It is one of the key words to search, that I think could give us more data. Also think " beneath Earth’s surface" is better search terms than the ones I selected.

    link text
    The Scientist (2018) Life Thrives Within the Earth’s Crust Article mentions dates, data, names and also is very well documented. (Just started reading it as it is large and with complex words.)

    Smithsonianmag (2017), article's title says: "How Low Can Life Go? New Study Suggests Six Miles Down" (9.7 km.)

    With [how far down do tree roots go]
    Roots can grow to more thaan 20 feet( 6 meters) deep

    "...oots require three things: water, oxygen, and soil compaction levels low enough (or with void spaces sufficiently large enough) to allow root penetration. If all these conditions are met, roots can grow to great depths. Under ideal soil and moisture conditions, roots have been observed to grow to more than 20 feet (6 meters) deep..."" report of a tree that grew roots to a depth of 174 feet (53 meters)..."

    Gardening in also mentions that the roots of most trees are shallow.

  3. This Challenge was explored in depth (haha) on CBS' 60 Minutes program 3 weeks ago. The 13 minute vid is captioned What lies two miles below Earth's surface? A South African gold mine that goes two miles beneath the Earth's surface holds far more than just precious metals. Bill Whitaker reports. Its at

    I found it again by this [tv 60 minutes deep earth]

    As it says 2 miles down they found critters-worms and maybe more.

    [deep earth life] finds this is the online presence of Science X "Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. " I think its pretty credible. ITs article on this topic is great: Life in deep Earth totals 15 to 23 billion tons of carbon—hundreds of times more than humans' its an article by Deep Carbon Observatory. In short there's a lot of life down there, waay down there.

    Amazing to me they can do all this. Thanks. jon

    1. You're kidding... This was on 60 minutes three weeks ago??

      I wonder if my curiosity was somehow primed by seeing an ad for the show. (I certainly didn't see the show.)

      Ah well, the Bader-Meinhof effect works in mysterious ways!

  4. REading on a bit I found this

    The record depth at which life has been found in the continental subsurface is approximately 5 km; the record in marine waters is 10.5 km from the ocean surface, a depth of extreme pressure; at 4000 meters depth, for example, the pressure is approximately 400 times greater than at sea level

  5. I searched Google for "what animal lives deepest underground?" It pointed me to the Wikipedia article about I also looked at a few of the first search results: (an article from our national broadcaster here in Canada) (an article from the Smithsonian) (an article from the Guardian)

    I skipped the BBC article ( because it was from around the same time as the CBC one & seemed to cover similar content. The National Geographic result I got was from 2011 ( - much older than the other sources.
    I skipped the Quora result (, but if I wanted to dig deeper, I might go back to look at what people said there. I didn't look at the last few articles on the first page of Google results because I didn't recognize the sites (; I also skipped the fairly recent NBC article ( since it seemed to rehash much of the earlier content. I was surprised how much information was returned from a fairly simple query.

  6. Well Anne and I had no idea this was on 60 Minutes did a special on this. We started searching in earnest thinking this was going to be tough. We did a search for animals that live in the earth. Google gave us some auto suggestions of in the earth, inside the earth and under the earth. We wondered if changing the preposition would change the search results. it did! Inside the earth was best followed by in and then under but under led to a suggestion to use animals that live deep under the ground which led to some very interesting search results. So the 3rd result on animals that live in the earth led us to a BBC article - There were no reference list but there were links to other articles including this one from Nature - which we would consider very reputable source-
    To determine credibility we check another source, we look at the author's credentials, and we look for references in the article.
    This article - which is the most recent one we found on the topic seems to suggest that animals could live as much as 6 miles under the earth's surface.
    Interesting fun search.

  7. Replies
    1. More or less related, and wonderful to spend 10 minutes viewing: The Deep Sea by Neal Agarwal.

    2. That is an amazing site. Thanks!

  8. I began my quest with the Google query -life beneath the Earth's crust- figuring the discovery of any such life would be reported by numerous publishers and the redundant coverage would lend some credence to the validity of the news as opposed to any stories covered by only one or two publishers.

    About half of the first 10 links were news reports about a tremendous variety of life living throughout the Earth's crust discovered in a 10 year study by the Deep Carbon Observatory, a global community of more than 1200 scientists from 55 countries with the quest to understand the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in Earth, including deep life.

    From their site I learned of Halicephalobus mephisto, a nematode living 1.3km underground and reported at the time as the deepest species found this far but it's discoverer, Gaetan Borgonie, reports that DNA of an unknown species has been found in another location 3.6km deep. It great would

    For me the vast amount of people, data and field studies from this group validates the source as knowledge, not debatable opinion.