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  • Huvudmeny

Exploration of the Deep Biosphere

Photo: Stefan Bengtson

Symbiosis-like association of fungi (filaments) with microbes ("cauliflower" and small bright grains) from 48 million-year-old subseafloor porous rocks. Specimen is 0.8 mm across.


The deep subseafloor crust is one of the few great frontiers of biology remaining on Earth. Even though oceanic crust makes up the largest potential habitat for life on Earth, next to nothing is known about the abundance, diversity, function and consequences of its biosphere.

The purpose of this project is to expand our knowledge of this hidden biosphere. The major scientific questions I address include:

  • What are the diversity and nature of the microbial communities in the ocean crust?
  • To what depth is microbial activity sustained and how do microbial communities vary with the aging of the lithosphere?
  • To what extent do microbe-mineral interactions occur and what might their consequences for global biogeochemical cycles be?

This research is funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR) and the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE)

Selected Publications

Ivarsson, M., Bengtson, S., Neubeck, A. 2016. The igneous oceanic crust – Earth’s largest fungal habitat? Fungal Ecology 20: 249-255.

Ivarsson, M., Holm, N.G., Neubeck, A. 2015. The deep biosphere of the subseafloor igneous crust. In: Trace Metal Biogeochemsitry and Ecology of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Systems (eds. Demina, L.L., Galkin, S.V.). Springer, 143-166.

Ivarsson, M., Bengtson, S., Skogby, H., Lazor, P., Broman, C., Belivanova, V., Marone, F., 2015. A fungal-prokaryotic consortium at the basalt-zeolite interface in subseafloor igneous crust. PLOS ONE, 10(10):e014016. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140106external link.

Ivarsson, M., Peckmann, J., Tehler, A., Broman, C., Bach, W., Behrens, K., Reitner, J., Böttcher, M.E., Norbäck-Ivarsson, L. 2015. Zygomycetes in vesicular basanites from Vesteris Seamount, Greenland Basin – a new type of cryptoendolithic fungi. PLOS ONE, 10(7): e01333368. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.01333368.

Bengtson, S., Ivarsson, M., Astolfo, A., Belivanova, V., Broman, C., Marone, F., Stampanoni, M. 2014. Deep-biosphere consortium of fungi and prokaryotes in Eocene sub-seafloor basalts. Geobiology 12: 489-496. See Bengtson et al. 2014.external link

Ivarsson, M., Bengtson, S., Belivanova, V., Stampanoni, M., Marone, F., and Tehler, A. 2012. Fossilized fungi in subseafloor Eocene basalts. Geology 40: 163-166.