Relationship between Humans and Nature: (I) Diversity of Life Forms
[PureInsight.org] When we speak
of life forms, we tend to think of human, animals, flowers, plants,
etc. In fact, life in this world may exist in ways we are unable to see
or imagine. Here are a few examples.
1) Unusual life deep in the sea
According to news released on October 20, 2006, researchers from
Princeton University discovered some unique bacteria about 2 miles
below sea level. These bacteria do not rely on the solar energy, but
instead live on radioactive decay in the rock. [1, 2] Based on such
studies, scientists speculate that life may exist in many unexpected
places, including under some extreme conditions.
The discovery site was near a gold mine in South Africa. The life form
there was thought to have been isolated from our ecosystem for several
million years. The metabolic energy was totally from surrounding rocks.
This research was published in Science
on October 20. The researchers were from 9 different institutions, and
they obtained the samples about 2,800 meters under the water. From this
discovery, one can speculate that life may exist in many uncommon
places, such as on other planets inside the solar system or even
outside the solar system. It is very likely that their existence has
nothing to do with our ecosystem.
Similar discoveries were also made in the past. According to news in Science Daily
on December 18, 2002,  scientists collected samples at the heights
of 20-41 kilometers above the earth's surface. Analysis showed that
microorganisms were found even in the samples collected at 41
kilometers high. On the other hand, scientists also found microbes in
Lake Vida, an Antarctic "ice-block" lake. This lake is covered by ice
and snow all year round, with water containing a high amount of salt,
several fold higher than seawater. Scientists think this harsh
environment is comparable to that on Mars.
Regarding the existence of life, exactly how much do we know?
2) Worms in stone
At around 8 a.m. on October 3, 2006, a resident surnamed Li was working
at a quarry site near Jujia Village of Baoquan Town in Anqiu City,
Shandong Province, China. He found a piece of violet rock about one
yard on each side. The rock was very hard, and it took him a long time
to cut it into two. When Mr. Li continued to cut the smaller piece, he
was very surprised to find a small pit inside the rock, in which were
two small worms. 
After close examination by experts in medicine from the local area, the
worms were identified as Shixia Worm, which are extremely rare but
nonetheless recorded in some ancient books including Compendium of Materia Medica
(a traditional Chinese medicine book written by Li Shizhen in Ming
Dynasty). However, it remains unclear what medical effects these worms
have, and how they survived in the isolated rock.
Five years earlier, one resident in Xingshan Village of Baoquan Town
also found a Shixia Worm in a quarry site, which seemed effective in
treating eye disease.
It is a mystery how the worm could live in such as hard and isolated environment.
3) The 3-meter high "Terror Bird"
When it comes to prehistoric creatures, people often think of
dinosaurs. In fact, during that period of time there were many giant
animals on earth besides dinosaurs.
On October 26, 2006, the discovery of the "Terror Bird" was published on Nature.
This creature was about 3 meters high, with head as big as that of a
horse. The National Geographic website also carried this discovery on
October 25. As the biggest birds that people have known so far, they
could eat a dog in one swallow. The fossils were unearthed in the 19th
century and are believed to have a history of about 15 million years.
Dinosaurs and "Terror Birds" are not alone. Scientists have also
discovered numerous other giant creatures, such as geese in Australia,
sloths in North America, and crocodiles in Brazil and Africa.
4) Giants and dwarves once co-existed with us
We have just briefly talked about some unusual microorganisms, worms
and animals. In fact, even for human beings, there are many mysteries.
For example, scientists have discovered the dwarf elephants on the
island of Flores in Indonesia, with height of only 90 centimeters. On
the same island where dwarf elephants were discovered, fossils were
also found that are very likely from extinct dwarf humans.  Many
people now consider these Flores dwarves as another kind of human
being, different from us. In 2004, many small-sized tools were also
found in the area where Flores dwarves were discovered. The
delicateness of those tools is comparable to the ones we have used.
Numerous pieces of evidence also point towards the existence of giants.
In the Ica Stone Museum located in Nazca, Peru, there are over 10,000
stones with inscription. These inscriptions are astonishing since they
describe a technically advanced prehistoric period, including some
describing humans co-existing with dinosaurs. From these inscriptions,
the humans were comparable in size to the dinosaurs, just like we stand
next to modern-day livestock. Could it be possible that the dinosaurs
were once livestock for those giants?
Regarding the complexity and wonders of our world, what we know now is
very, very limited. Exactly how many forms are there for life to exist?
This will probably be a mystery to us forever.
The bottom line is that, since we have the opportunity to live in this world with so many beings, we need to cherish them.
1. Two miles underground, strange bacteria are found thriving:
6. Largest "Terror Bird" Fossil Found in Argentina:
Chinese version is available at: http://zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2006/10/29/40689.html