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Worms From Hell: Scientists Discover Multicellular Organisms Deep In Earth's Surface (VIDEO)

06/05/2011 11:46 am ET | Updated Aug 03, 2011

Scientists have discovered the first multicellular life in the deep subsurface biosphere.

In plainer terms: they've discovered worms from hell.

Located in the deep subsurface biosphere, these nematoda (including a new species known as Halicephalobus mephisto), are the deepest multi-cellular organisms found on Earth. Their discovery was announced in the latest issue of Nature.

This discovery is huge, simply because scientists previously thought complex life was impossible at that depth, according to LiveScience. But perhaps more importantly, the findings give a different perspective on where life could exist in the universe, potentially miles beneath the surface of alien planets.

The two lead researchers, Gaetan Borgonie of the University of Ghent in Belgium and Tullis Onstott of Princeton University, said the discovery of creatures so far below ground, with nervous, digestive and reproductive systems, was akin to finding “Moby Dick in Lake Ontario.”

The find entirely changes how and where scientists believe multi-cellular life can exist. While nematoda are known to live on the ocean floor and as far at 10 to 20 feet beneath the ocean bed, this discovery puts them about a mile beneath the surface.

The paper's authors have been trying to have a bit of fun with their discovery as well. "We tried to get the title of the paper to be 'Worms from Hell,'" study author Tullis Onstott of Princeton University told LiveScience. "But Nature didn't go for that."

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