21.9 C
HomeUncategorizedNever before identified microbes living in 'Martian' conditions found in the Arctic

Never before identified microbes living in ‘Martian’ conditions found in the Arctic

Published: 22 Jun 2022 23:20 GMT

A team of researchers from McGill University (Canada) has discovered microbes that have never before been identified on our planet and that could survive even on Mars, according to the educational institution.

The discovery was made in the extremely salty, cold and almost oxygen-free environment of a spring known as ‘Lost Hammer Spring’, in the Canadian Arctic. The environment of this spring is the most similar on Earth to certain areas of the ‘red planet’. The authors of the study were able to gather information on the metabolism of these microbial communities, which are able to survive by eating and breathing simple inorganic compounds such as methane, sulfides, sulfates, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, all of which are found on Mars.

The results of the finding, which were published in The ISME Journal, are so compelling that the European Space Agency selected samples of the spring’s surface sediments to test the life-detection capabilities of instruments they plan to use on the upcoming ExoMars space mission, the release reads.

A ‘Martian’ spring on Earth

Lost Hammer Spring is one of the coldest and saltiest terrestrial springs discovered to date. The water that rises through 600 meters of permafrost to the surface is extremely salty (about 24 % salinity), always at sub-zero temperatures (about -5 °C) and contains almost no oxygen. High salt concentrations prevent it from freezing, thus maintaining a liquid water habitat even at lower temperatures.

The researchers also sequenced the DNA of the microbial community, which made it possible to reconstruct the genomes of approximately 110 microorganisms, most of which had never been seen before. These genomes have made it possible to determine how these microbes survive and thrive in such extreme and unique environments.

In addition to simple inorganic compounds, the microbes studied can also fix carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases from the Earth’s atmosphere, making them highly adaptable to survive and thrive in very extreme environments on Earth and beyond, detailed Lyle Whyte, lead author of the study.

The next steps in the research will be to further culture and characterize the most abundant and active members of this strange microbial ecosystem to better understand why and how they thrive in the inhospitable environment of Lost Hammer Spring. The researchers hope that this, in turn, will aid in the interpretation of the enigmatic sulfur and carbon isotopes recently obtained by NASA’s Curiosity rover in Mars’ Gale Crater.


latest articles

explore more

error: Content is protected !!