Nematoda from the terrestrial deep subsurface of South Africa.
Microbiological, molecular biological, and radioisotopic studies suggest that active and complex microbial communities exist in the deep layers of the subsurface biosphere. This review discusses only one group of such communities, i.e., those developing at high (above 60 degrees C temperatures). Oil wells, subsurface water reservoirs (e.g., the Great Artesian Basin in Australia), deep mines (in South Africa), and high-temperature horizons below the seafloor in the areas of underwater volcanic activity contain the best-studied high-temperature subsurface ecosystems. These microbial communities differ considerably from one another in biodiversity, initial energy substrate, and major microbiological processes. However, before they can be considered as equivalents of the Earth's primordial ecosystems, it is necessary to demonstrate that they are energetically independent of the modern biosphere.