Microorganisms living underneath the surface of the earth have a total carbon mass of 15 to 23 billion tons, hundreds of times more than that of humans, according to findings announced by the Deep Carbon Observatory and coauthored by UT Professor of Microbiology Karen Lloyd.
Carbon is the most prevalent element in living beings because it is part of almost all the molecules that are key for biological processes, including proteins, fats, and even DNA. Ninety percent of the earth’s carbon is in the subsurface.
“Knowing about how carbon is distributed and how living things use it is crucial for understanding not only life cycles but also our environment,” said Lloyd.
The report, which took an international multidisciplinary team 10 years to complete, also sheds light on other aspects of the incredible world of microbial dark matter.