Extreme "Venus's Hair" Lifeform Found Thriving On Freshly Erupted Lava

The lava had only just solidified and bacteria were found all over it. Allen.G/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 24 Apr 2017, 16:00

As this bacteria thrives in its hostile environment, it is classified as a type of “extremophile”. It appears to use the sulfur and nitrate effusions to generate energy, and it’s likely that the destruction of all former life allowed it to quickly swoop in and colonize the shattered underwater volcano.

It’s long been known that there are extremophiles in every single hostile environment on the planet, from beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet to within superheated, deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

However, this bacteria was found immediately colonizing a post-eruption surface, which is a relatively new phenomenon. Far from being wary of it, they’re even using the volcanic heat itself to help their metabolic processes operate. This mechanism, then, could even hint at how alien life on other volcanic planets and moons could exist.

Rather wonderfully, the emergence of T. veneris doesn’t just show how life finds a way to keep itself going even in the event of a devastating natural disaster. The emergence of bacteria tends to eventually support the colonization of the area by larger and more complex forms of life, and indeed, this is what the team observed at Tagoro.

“A specialized and highly diverse food web thrives on the complex three-dimensional habitat formed by these microorganisms,” the team note in their study. “This provides evidence that Venus’s hair can drive the restart of biological systems after submarine volcanic eruptions.”

So, far from being an opportunistic thief, this particular bacteria could provide the foundations for a new bastion of biodiversity deep beneath the waves.

Could we find the “cousins” of Venus’s Hair on other volcanically active worlds? Roberto Danovaro

All things considered, there’s a chance that this biofilm found at Tagoro resembles the very first complex colony of life that appeared on planet Earth all those billions of years ago.

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