Now new findings are radically changing that idea.
In a new study, the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) estimates that 70 percent of Earth's bacteria and archaea, single-celled microorganisms, live beneath our feet in a massive biosphere.
And we aren't talking
just a few feet or even twenty feet...
The microorganisms are teeming deep down, not just near the surface, but miles down, where there is no light, extreme temperatures as high as 251.6º Fahrenheit, intense pressure, and few sources of energy.
A massive biosphere exists, far outnumbering the life living on the surface.
This biosphere has remained pristine and untouched by humans, but new drilling techniques allow samples from boreholes as far down as 5 kilometers.
That, along with new powerful microscopes, allow scientists to detect lifeforms where we never knew they existed before.
In a recent article from The Guardian, they note new and strange lifeforms emerging from the depths.
The way they live is changing how we think about life itself.
Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville reveals these organisms not only far outnumber surface dwellers, but they also far outlive us.
They live for thousands of years, barely ever moving unless the Earth's crust shifts around them.
Finding so much life so deep below the Earth begs the question:
The implications move beyond science:
Alexis Templeton, a Geomicrobiologist from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, has been taking part in a drilling project in Oman. Scientists extract samples of the deep earth and find a bewildering array of colors, textures, and new forms of life.
They believe such subterranean lifeforms could well exist deep below the surface of Mars, as long as it is able to store water like lifeforms beneath the mountains of Oman.
Over 150 years ago, Jules Verne wrote Journey to the Center of the Earth, asking the question:
Today, it appears Verne was able to somehow tap into the future, as scientists begin to scratch the surface to find a massive well of life.
Life forms living in such
seemingly harsh and inhospitable conditions have been called "extremophiles,"
but now, it looks like their way of life is actually the relative