London, February 8 : German researchers have unearthed evidence that microbes could survive inside gas bubbles within volcanic rock.
Joachim Reitner of the University of Gottingen and his colleagues examined lava that had been extruded under water around 390 million years ago, and found curved filaments of minerals lining the inside of bubble chambers.
The researchers say that the shape and chemical composition of filaments suggest that they are the remnants of micro-organisms.
Studying a layer of cement deposited before the filaments, the researchers came to the conclusion that the microbes might have colonised the lava more than 1000 years after it had solidified.
Reitner believes that his team could get deep into the rock through tiny fractures that would have opened up as the lava cooled quickly under water.
He says that they might have fed on reduced iron in the rock, reports New Scientist.
According to him, such colonies might have been living inside bubbles for billions of years.
Pointing out that organic carbon and marks etched by microbes have previously been found in 3.5 billion-year-old volcanic glass, Reitner says that similar microbes may be found beneath much of the ocean floor today.