Default publications post thumbnail

Moving Life and Nutrients Around

Many anecdotal accounts of microorganisms being found in environments that cannot support their metabolic activities can be found in the scientific literature.1 Yet no quantitative measurements existed for the extent to which these microorganisms have been misplaced or for the methods that transported them from their original locations into such hostile environments—until now. Better understanding of these life-forms and the means by which they are moved can reveal more insights into how the Creator designed life and the transport mechanisms for moving life, the flow of life, and life’s essential nutrients.

A team of biologists and biogeochemists from western Europe and the United States repeatedly measured the quantities of different microbial communities in seabeds off the coast of Svalbard, an archipelago midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.2 They found that stocks of thermophilic bacteria were being constantly replenished from far distant sources at a rate exceeding one hundred million spores per square meter per year.

These thermophilic bacteria require temperatures between 30° and 80° C for metabolic activity. Yet, the seabeds in which the bacteria were found are permanently cold, maintaining a stable temperature that ranges between -4° and -2° C year round. Hence, the bacteria are present in the seabeds as dormant spores only.

Subterranean volcanic sea vents and some spreading sea floor ridges are the only sites in the ocean where these thermophilic bacteria can thrive and reproduce. These sites make up an extremely tiny fraction of the sea floor and none are anywhere close to Svalbard. The team’s measurements, therefore, established that very powerful seabed fluid flow mechanisms must operate in the oceans and exert a global impact on the geology and life of the planet.

Psalm 104 states, “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things large and small.”3 Thermophiles, together with all the other extremophiles, bear witness to God’s desire to pack all of Earth’s habitats with as much life as possible. God does this, in part, so that humans will have the greatest possible wealth of life and biodeposits at their disposal.

Sites where thermophiles and other extremophiles can thrive are highly ephemeral (transient). Powerful, continuous seabed fluid flows guarantee that as old hot spots shut down, new hot spots will be colonized quickly by thermophiles and extremophiles. The Creator designed these microorganisms to survive long periods of time in a dormant spore state under, for them, very hostile conditions. This is vital to the success of the colonization process.

The seabed fluid flows mean that, not only exotic life, but also life that thrives under normal or benign conditions (mesophiles) can be transported over vast regions of the globe. Such mechanisms provide Earth’s creatures with built-in safeguards against widespread, potentially devastating, natural disasters. It also shields life from the devastation wrought by human abuse.

Just as importantly, seabed fluid flows efficiently recycle mineral nutrients and the debris from the remains of dead organisms. Because of such recycling pathways, our planet can sustain and protect a very large and very diverse community of organisms. Both the seabed fluid flows and Earth’s life are designed optimally, which maximizes humanity’s well-being and technological potential. Such wide-scale optimization declares the glory of God.

  1. Carlos Pedrós-Alió, “Marine Microbial Diversity: Can It Be Determined,” Trends in Microbiology 14 (June 2006): 257-63; Verona Vandieken, Christian Knoblauch, and Bo Barker Jørgensen, Desulfotomaculum articum sp. nov., a Novel Spore-Forming, Moderately Thermophilic, Sulfate-Reducing Bacterium Isolated from a Permanently Cold Fjord Sediment of Svalbard,” International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 56 (April 2006): 687-90; J. W. Bartholomew and George Paik, “Isolation and Identification of Obligate Thermophilic Sporeforming Bacilli from Ocean Basin Cores,” Journal of Bacteriology 92 (September 1966): 635-38.
  2. Casey Hubert et al., “A Constant Flux of Diverse Thermophilic Bacteria into the Cold Arctic Seabed,” Science 325 (September 18, 2009): 1541-44; David J. Patterson, “Seeing the Big Picture on Microbe Distribution,” Science 325 (September 18, 2009): 1506-7.

  3. Psalm 104:24-26.