London, Jan 22 : A new research by scientists at the Stanford University in California has suggested that earthquakes help to keep the microbes present deep in the crust of the Earth alive by providing them vital nutrients.
According to a report in New Scientist, Earth's crust is known to host hardy bacteria even several kilometres below the surface.
These cells have no sun or organic material to sustain them, so they feed off the chemical energy in reactive molecules like hydrogen dissolved in the water seeping out of the rock.
This means that their growth and survival is limited by the flow of nutrients from deeper sources.
Now, a new research by Norman Sleep and Mark Zoback of Stanford University, show that earthquakes could provide these nutrients.
According to the researchers, earthquakes would open up cracks in the crust, releasing pockets of deeper nutrient-rich water and exposing fresh rock that would further drive the chemical reactions that release molecules like hydrogen.
The researchers' calculations show that seismic events would happen regularly enough to ensure a dependable supply of food right across a tectonic plate, sustaining microbial life for billions of years.
This mechanism might also keep microbes supplied with nutrients deep in the single-plate crust of Mars, the report added.