Earthquakes release a lot of energy, and some places on Earth have quakes happening very often. I have seen sources quoting the Earth having quakes from 20 to 1,400 times a day, depending on the Richter scale threshold you use to call a tremor an Earthquake. Most activity seems to be concentrated on the Ring of Fire.

Could microbial life evolve to feed on such energy release? If so, what physiological or biomechanical adaptations would be needed?

Just like radiotrophic fungi don't need radiation to thrive, but are able to extract energy from it, I am thinking of microbes that can just optionally feed on quakes when those happen.


Earthquakes are basically very big shaking of the ground.

Shaking carries energy by generating pressure waves in the rocks, thus a plausible way of harvesting this energy is by using the piezoelectric effect:

Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (such as crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins) in response to applied mechanical stress.

They would need to have sets of piezoelectric crystals and proteins capable of converting the sonic energy into chemical energy.

The harvested energy could be stored, more or less like plants store transformed solar energy, and used later.

Since ground noise happens more often than pure quakes, I think it makes sense that "sonotrophic" bacteria (gathering nutrition from sound), should they exist, could benefit from the sudden input of a quake, rather than thriving only on quakes.

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    $\begingroup$ Having experimented with Piezoelectrical stuff for energy harvesting myself, I can say it is possible, but difficult. You do get a voltage quite easily, but the crystal does not want to give away its built-in charges. There is almost no current (basically a high internal resistance), if you want to use it to supply something. There are ways to do it, but unfortunately it is more complicated than one might think. There is probably a reason why energy-harvesting piezo-crystals are significantly more expensive than just regular ones you can use to measure pressure or vibration. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Sep 21 '18 at 12:56

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