Plenty of scientists have looked at samples from the bottom of the sea, the rainforest, even the moon and distant comets in space. But sometimes the weirdest stuff happens right under our noses. Case in point: A team of researchers looked at microbes from the New York City subway under a microscope, and they found organisms they can't even identify.
Scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College just released a study about the DNA sequences of gunk they found underground in New York. Most people know that there are plenty of germs thriving on public transit, but what surprised the scientists was just how weird those tiny creatures ended up looking. Of all the DNA they sampled, almost half of it didn't match any known organism.
Does that mean that half of the life on the subway is alien? Probably not -- scientists know less about genes than you might think, especially when it comes to non-human DNA. But it does mean that New York is as bizarre an ecosystem as any other. And with 5.5 million riders on the MTA every weekday, the bugs passed around have plenty of opportunity to mutate beyond recognition.
“People don’t look at a subway pole and think, ‘It’s teeming with life,’” said Dr. Christopher E. Mason, the study's lead author, to the New York Times. “After this study, they may. But I want them to think of it the same way you’d look at a rain forest, and be almost in awe and wonder, effectively, that there are all these species present — and that you’ve been healthy all along.”