Which animal lives the furthest underground?

Recently discovered invertebrates live further towards the Earth’s core than scientists ever dreamed


Deep-dwelling animals are difficult both to locate and photograph, but the animal recorded at the lowest point below the surface is a nematode called Halicephalobus mephisto. It’s also known as the devil worm, and it has been found at an incredible 3.6 kilometres (2.2 miles) below the Earth. Discovered in a South African gold mine, these worms are a million times larger than the microbes that they live alongside, and the researcher that discovered them in 2011 described it as incredible as finding a whale in a lake. They evolved over generations to withstand extreme heat and high pressure and have not been in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere for 4,000 years.

Another underground marvel is a species of springtail, a wingless and eyeless insect. It feeds on decomposing matter and fungi and was found in the deepest cave in the world after a 10-year search. Most underground animals lack any colour pigments as there isn’t enough light for them to be seen, but these insects still have their colour, suggesting their move to middle Earth is relatively recent.


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Photograph: Ana Di Berardo