DEVIL OF A DISCOVERY
What is 0.5mm long and lives at the bottom of a South African gold mine?
The answer is slightly less disappointing than most of the answers which come to mind (feel free to send in your own answers).
It is in fact a nematode.
Halicephalobus mephisto (Devil’s Worm) is one of the top 10 new species as decided on by the International Institute for Species Exploration during its annual round-up of the most impressive newly-categorised creatures and critters.
This friendly looking chap (or lady – but who’s to argue) is the deepest-living terrestrial multi-cellular organisms on (or in) Earth. It was found at a depth of 1.3km at the Beatrix gold mine (shaft 3, level 26, corridor 28 if you are in the area and want to say hi).
The IISE was particularly impressed with the species ability to immense underground pressure and high temperatures (37o C) but it is what the worm could lead to which is really exciting.
Carbon dating indicated the borehole water where this species lives has not been in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere for the last 4000 to 6000 years and the IISE website said there could be more to come from far below, and even further above.
“The discovery of H. mephisto in Earth’s deep subsurface is also significant because it may have important implications for the discovery of life at similar subterranean depths on other planets.”
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