Long, thin, hairlike Thioploca (meaning "sulfur braids" in Spanish) trichomes form chains down into marine sediment, which tiny Anammox cells ride down like an elevator. At the bottom, the Anammox cells consume nitrite and ammonium, or "fixed" nitrogen, the waste products of the Thioploca.

Why is this research important to astrobiology?

One goal of NASA's Astrobiology Program is to understand the limits and constraints on life in extreme environments, and the strategies some organisms use to survive such extremes—providing a critical foundation for the search for life beyond Earth.

The research was conducted off the coast of Baja California, in the anoxic sediments of the Soledad basin at the Mexican Pacific margin. There, bacteria species like Thioploca and Anammox must solve critical challenges.