Category Archives: News

The strange beasts that live in solid rock deep underground

The strange beasts that live in solid rock deep underground

Drill down a mile or two into Earth’s crust and you will find solid rock, unbearable heat and little oxygen. Yet it turns out there is also thriving animal life.
Just how far down in the Earth’s crust can animals survive? In the dark, hot depths of several South African gold mines, there live some tiny worms that may hold the key to answering that question.

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Study of extreme organisms in SA mines

Study of extreme organisms in SA mines

Around 1.3 km in the earth’s crust, at the Beatrix gold mine, in the Free State, the ‘devil’ lives in a small pocket of fissure water. Or, to be more accurate, it is here that a small microorganism named Mephisto has its home. This asexual worm’s name is derived from Mephistopheles, ‘he who loves not the light’, alluding to the devil, or Lord of the Underworld, in reference to Germanic folklore and, specifically, the Faust legend.

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Hunting “Worms from Hell”

Hunting “Worms from Hell”

If you’re on a quest for “worms from Hell,” you have to be prepared for some tough going. You have to be an intrepid adventurer and a scientific risk-taker, someone with a high tolerance for discomfort and, of course, heat.

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TWAS young scientist award

TWAS young scientist award

In 2009, the award went to Dr Esta van Heerden, a biochemistry researcher and Associate Professor in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State.

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