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A new study has shown how low temperature chemical reactions between iron-containing minerals and water could produce hydrogen 'food' for microorganisms that inhabit pores and cracks in rocks below the ocean floor and parts of the continents.

Previously, scientists have studied hydrogen production in rocks at temperatures too hot for life. The new study found that similar processes could occur at temperatures where microorganisms can survive. These low-temperature environments are more abundant on Earth, and the study opens up the possibility for a large ecosystem thriving deep below the surface of our planet. The findings also provide clues about the potential for ancient, hydrogen-dependent ecosystems on Mars if iron-rich igneous rocks were once in contact with water.

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