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How Cooperating Microbes Shaped Life on Earth - Scientific American

How Cooperating Microbes Shaped Life on Earth

Microbial partnerships turn out to be more common and influential than scientists could have ever imagined

Half a mile below the surface of the ocean, off the coast of Oregon, the Alvin submersible's headlights flicker on to reveal a colorful oasis. Plush carpets of white, yellow and orange microbes cover the seafloor, punctuated by fields of clams and mussels. Red rockfish watch the vessel warily with bulbous milky eyes, while bubble plumes belch from mounds of chalky, variegated rock. The halo of illumination draws visitors forward like a lure, exposing this alien terrain bit by unexpected bit while obscuring its true extent.

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