SCIENTISTS in Sevilla have discovered the remains of an ecosystem of microorganisms which live without oxygen.

It is believed that the Earth’s first life forms originated under similar circumstances, and that similar life could exist on other planets such as Mars.

These extremophile organisms – or bacteria – were discovered 150m beneath the surface in Las Cruces mine by researchers at the Centro Superior de Investigaciones.

They feed on the remains of organic material, causing significant chemical changes to the habitat in which they live.

“Las Cruces is probably one of the best and most unique examples worldwide of how life changed and modeled mineralisation,” said researcher Fernando Tornos.

He added that this process may still be occurring now, emphasising the importance of such bacteria in the chemistry of underground environments.

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