Worms from Hell
About a mile beneath Earth’s surface, scientists have discovered a new species—H. mephisto—a.k.a. “worms from hell.” In terms of size, the discovery of the 0.02-inch-long critter is like “finding Moby Dick in Lake Ontario,” says Tullis Onstott, a researcher from Princeton University. “It’s 10 billion times the size of the bacteria on which it feeds.” Onstott and his colleagues discovered the wiggly nematodes in boreholes from the depths of the Beatrix gold mine of South Africa. In recent years, scientists have discovered all kinds of “extremophiles”—single-celled organisms living in extreme environments. This is the first time they have dug up a deep-living, multi-cellular organism with its reproductive, digestive, and nervous systems intact. The fact that a worm can live under intense pressure, in total darkness, and extreme temperatures deep below the surface of the Earth opens a whole new can of worms for possibly finding life on other planets.