Study: Bacteria thrive in 400,000 times Earth's gravity
Biologist Shigeru Deguchi suggests there may be microbrial life that could survive an ultra-dense neutron star.
April 26th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

Study: Bacteria thrive in 400,000 times Earth's gravity

Microbial life can grow in gravity more than 400,000 times that of Earth, according to a new study detailed in National Geographic.

Biologist Shigeru Deguchi led a team that tested five species of bacteria by subjecting them to intense gravity conditions, called "hypergravity." The species continued to multiply despite being spun in a machine that replicated pressure 400,000 times that of Earth's gravity.

Shigeru, in an e-mail to CNN Tuesday, said the findings suggest that there might be life forms - microbial in size - that could withstand even more weight.

"We tested only five microbes in this study. Because the list of microbes is very short, we anticipate that further accumulation of experimental data on various microorganisms may result in discoveries of previously undescribed species that expand the range of habitable gravities even more," he said.

Shigeru said although the cosmic scale of life we've read about for years in science fiction books has long been discounted by scientists, the study should cause us to reconsider the limits of life.

"Life in hypergravitational habitats such as neutron stars is a favorite theme for science fiction novels, but did not attract serious scientific attention even though the robustness of microorganisms against physical extremes (temperature, pH, pressure, or radiation) is well known," Shigeru said.

"Our work is the first systematic study on the effect of hypergravity on microorganisms, and expanded the limits for life to a new dimension," he said.

The success of the microbes under these extreme conditions is directly related to their size, Shigeru said.  "The growth of microorganisms progressively becomes slower as the gravity is increased above 10,000 G (the standard value for gravity)," he said.

"Four hundred-thousand G is the highest gravity we can achieve by our instrument, but there is a centrifuge that can go up to 1,000,000 G," he said.

Shigeru's study is in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Filed under: Solar System • Space
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Really?

    Who knew Courtney Love could thrive in such conditions?

    April 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    Lmao! Excellent!

    April 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Satan

    Truth be told I'm just God's stinky little persistent strain of E.Coli! Where are my atheist brethren to cast doubt on God, after every scientific discovery? I unleash you minions!!!!!

    April 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    Big deal. I've seen ants survive being stepped on.

    April 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz


      April 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Canadian Genius

    This is quite honestly an easy project that never occurred to me. Put bacterial cultures in a centrifuge and see if they grow. I might have had my PhD by now. Brilliant.

    April 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • done_my_time

      Five to seven years hard labor, with time off for good behavior= 1 life sciences Ph.D.

      A project like that may have gotten you a nifty first-author paper (PLOS One, not Nature, unless your advisor has name recognition) with relatively little effort, but I doubt it would've gotten you out earlier. (Not to belittle the value in successful projects and a strong publishing record, but those things usually pay off in the longer run, not in the immediate term)

      April 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jazzzzzzzz

    Carolann .... look into the lighttttttttttt.

    April 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mad Hatter

    We're all aliens from outer space.

    April 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy

    True, MH, true.

    April 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy

    I'm still laughing over the Courtney Love comment!

    April 26, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ?


    April 26, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Queen Victoria


      April 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    Misspelling the first word of your article? Really, CNN?

    April 27, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      I see that my email prompted you to change "microbrial" to "microbial" in the first sentence, but not in the associated caption.

      April 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. What Stuff

    What microbe is going to survive millions of degrees of heat?
    In case no one has noticed, there is an extreme heat factor on neutron stars. This article is retarded. Any microbe is going to be vaporized on contact with any part of a neutron star. What stuff!

    April 27, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |