Deep Life: The Hunt for the Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond

Written by
Tullis C. Onstott
Nov. 8, 2016

Tullis C. Onstott - 2016

Available from Princeton University Press:
Deep Life: The Hunt for the Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond
by Tullis C. Onstott

deep life book cover

Deep Life takes readers to uncharted regions deep beneath Earth’s crust in search of life in extreme environments and reveals how astonishing new discoveries by geomicrobiologists are helping the quest to find life in the solar system.

Tullis Onstott, named one of the 100 most influential people in America by Time magazine, provides an insider’s look at the pioneering fieldwork that is shining vital new light on Earth’s hidden biology—a thriving subterranean biosphere that scientists once thought to be impossible. Come along on epic descents two miles underground into South African gold mines to experience the challenges that Onstott and his team had to overcome. Join them in their search for microbes in the ancient seabed below the desert floor in the American Southwest, and travel deep beneath the frozen wastelands of the Arctic tundra to discover life as it could exist on Mars.

Blending cutting-edge science with thrilling scientific adventure, Deep Life features rare and unusual encounters with exotic life forms, including a bacterium living off radiation and a hermaphroditic troglodytic worm that has changed our understanding of how complex subsurface life can really be. This unforgettable book takes you to the absolute limits of life—the biotic fringe—where today’s scientists hope to discover the very origins of life itself.

Tullis C. Onstott is professor of geosciences at Princeton University. He lives in Stockton, New Jersey.


The discovery of deep biosphere is a fascinating chapter in the history of astrobiology, and Onstott was at the bottom of it all--literally, when he and his team were searching for life in the deepest mines on Earth. This detailed and well-written book explains the importance of the subsurface…

Chris McKay

NASA Ames Research Center

Onstott is truly a bold front-runner in deep subsurface microbiology and a great role model for anyone in geology who aspires to become a successful geomicrobiologist. Reading this book makes me feel lucky to have witnessed some of these explorations firsthand. I am also amazed by their vivid…

Chuanlun Zhang

Tongji University

Onstott so beautifully conveys his excitement that laypeople and scientists alike will find [Deep Life] a worthwhile read.

Publishers Weekly

Deep Life tackles one of the most mysterious, sexiest questions in science today: Is there life beyond Earth?. . . Onstott’s argument is both profound--we can’t understand life on other planets without understanding life on our own--and surprising, pleasing any amateur extraterrestrial…

Sarah Sloat