Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 157-165

First online:

Exploring the deep biosphere

  • JiaSong FangAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Marine Geology, Tongji UniversityCollege of Natural and Computational Sciences, Hawaii Pacific University Email author 
  • , Li ZhangAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources, Faculty of Earth Sciences, China University of Geosciences

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Over the past two decades, scientific drilling into sediments and rocks in the ocean and the continent has revealed the presence of physiologically and phylogenetically complex microbial life in the deep subsurface. Microorganisms, most of which have no cultured or known relatives in the surface biosphere, have been discovered in sediments and rock at depth as deep as 1 km below the seafloor and more than 3 km deep in the continent. The deep biosphere probably represents the most voluminous part of the global biosphere and may constitute as much as 50% of the Earth’s biomass. In this article, we review the current knowledge of and most recent advances in studying the deep biosphere and suggest directions in future research.


deep biosphere Thomas Gold microorganism biomass DNA ribosome ODP CARD-FISH dark energy lipids serpentinization