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Find Your Science at GSA
25 October 2013
GSA Release No. 13-74
EMBARGOED for release at noon MDT
(18:00 GMT) on Tues., 29 Oct.
Kea Giles
Managing Editor,
GSA Communications
Contact On-Site:
Kea Giles
Newsroom: Colorado Convention Center, Room 608
microarthropod life at coal fire vent 1
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microarthropod life at coal fire vent 2
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New Discovery of Microarthropods Living Near Coal-Fire Gas Vents Challenges Traditional Views of Life

EMBARGOED for release at noon MDT (18:00 GMT) on Tues., 29 Oct.

Boulder, Colorado, USA –A new discovery by a team of geologists and biologists challenges traditional views of what constitutes a viable Earth habitat. At the upcoming 2013 GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition in Denver, Dr. Nancy Lindsley-Griffin of Griffin Resources in Jacksonville, Oregon, will present research showing that "microarthropods" have been found living in vegetation and soil at toxic coal-fire gas vents in Centralia, Pennsylvania.

The research is headed by Dr. Glenn B. Stracher of East Georgia State College. According to Stracher, "These microarthropods are reminiscent of life forms discovered years ago to be habituating hydrothermal vents on the sea floor."

Stracher says "The organisms identified by the team’s biologists, Drs. Breana Simmons and Jimmy Wedincamp, include Collembola (springtails), the most abundant and diverse of the mesofauna. In addition, thrips, oribatid mites, insect larvae, and adult beetles were also found." He emphasizes, "This is the first recorded occurrence of such organisms ever found at and living near coal-fire gas vents, where gas compounds toxic to humans are exhaled into the atmosphere."

The paper characterizes these heat and gas tolerant organisms as possible "opportunists," living at the vents because of decreased competition from less heat- and gas-tolerant arthropods.

The team of scientists that made this discovery and their colleagues are preparing to extract microarthropods from soil and vegetation at other coal fires in the U.S. and abroad. The objectives of this new research are to determine which microarthropod species most commonly live at coal-fire gas vents, why they live there, and why these particular organisms are temperature and gas tolerant, when other arthropods are not.

The paper is part of a session sponsored by GSA’s Coal Geology Division.

Session: Celebrating 125 Years of Coal and Source Rock Science: From Fundamental Principles to Applied Technology
When: Tuesday, 29 Oct., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Colorado Convention Center, Room 601
Abstract: Newly Discovered Arthropods at Gas Vents and Fissures: Centralia Mine Fire, Eastern Pennsylvania (3:40 p.m.; slides/photos are posted online)
Contact: Dr. Nancy Lindsley-Griffin, Griffin Resources,
First Author: Dr. Glenn B. Stracher, East Georgia State College,

Search the complete program by author or keyword at

Contact: Kea Giles
Colorado Convention Center, Room 608

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with more than 25,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.