Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



EXO WORLDS
Ancient microbes push limits of what life can survive on Earth, and off
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (Sputnik) Feb 22, 2017


Some question whether the microbes really come from inside the crystal, as Boston and her researchers assert, and not from the pools of water that surround them.

NASA has revived a bunch of very odd microbial creatures from a slumber of tens of thousands of years - and what they've discovered about how tenacious and strange life can be could mean space explorers need to take a much closer look at what they may be carrying with them - and what they could bring back.

In giant crystals deep in a Mexican cave, scientists found creatures mostly unknown to science that have evolved to endure their harsh environment by feeding on iron, sulfur and other chemicals. Many have remained dormant for tens of thousands of years - up to 60,000 perhaps - but can still be revived.

"These organisms have been dormant but viable for geologically significant periods of time, and they can be released due to other geological processes," NASA Astrobiology Institute director Penelope Boston said in announcing their findings at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science February 17, National Geographic reports.

"This has profound effects on how we try to understand the evolutionary history of microbial life on this planet.

Boston and her team have spent years exploring Mexico's volcano-heated Naica mine and its pillars of crystal, searching for extremophiles. They found them inside the mine's massive crystals: tiny creatures in a state of geolatency, which describes a state of remaining viable in geological materials for a long, long time.

The team removed some in 2008 and 2009, and, "Much to my surprise we got things to grow," Boston told the Telegraph.

"It was laborious. We lost some of them - that's just the game. They've got needs we can't fulfill. That part of it was really like zoo keeping."

Some 100 different bugs, mostly bacteria, were harboring in the crystals of the cave, suspended for between 10,000 and 60,000 years. Ninety percent of them had never been seen before, the Telegraph reports. Most life could not survive in the dark and the heat of the cave, but these hearty few evolved to consume the sulphides, iron, manganese or copper oxide around them.

The organisms are genetically distinct from anything known on Earth, Boston's team says. They are most similar to other microbes found in caves and around volcanoes.

"They're really showing us what our kind of life can do in terms of manipulating materials," Boston said.

"These guys are living in an environment where there's not organic food as we understand it. They're an example at very high temperatures of organisms making their living essentially by munching down inorganic minerals and compounds. This is maybe the deep history of our life here."

Some question whether the microbes really come from inside the crystal, as Boston and her researchers assert, and not from the pools of water that surround them.

"I think that the presence of microbes trapped within fluid inclusions in Naica crystals is in principle possible. However, that they are viable after 10,000 to 50,000 years is more questionable," microbiologist Purificacion Lopez-Garcia of the French National Center for Scientific Research told National Geographic.

"Contamination during drilling with microorganisms attached to the surface of these crystals or living in tiny fractures constitutes a very serious risk."

But if Boston and her crew are correct, microbial life on Earth can endure much more than scientists previously thought possible. And this means that perhaps life off Earth is hardier than they thought, too.

NASA goes to great lengths to sterilize spacecraft its spacecraft, Boston said, but with life proving to be much more stubborn than we delicate humans assume, the risk of bringing an invasive new creature into space, or indeed carrying one back, shouldn't be underestimated.

"The astrobiological link is obvious in that any extremophile system that we're studying allows us to push the envelope of life further on Earth, and we add it to this atlas of possibilities that we can apply to different planetary settings," she told reporters after announcing her findings, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

"How do we ensure that life-detection missions are going to detect true Mars life or life from icy worlds rather than our life? Aspects of my work illustrate the extreme toughness of life on Earth and the restrictions that places on us."

NASA is planning to bring back rock and ice samples from Jupiter's moon Europa, which has a salty ocean beneath its crust, and while once it was thought that no microbes could possibly survive a space journey, that has been shown not to be the case.

John Rummel of the Seti Institute in California said, "If we bring samples back from either Europa or Mars, we will contain them until hazard testing demonstrates that there is no danger and no life, or continue the containment indefinitely while we study the material," according to the Telegraph.

Source: Sputnik News

EXO WORLDS
60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist
Boston (AFP) Feb 20, 2017
NASA scientists have discovered living microorganisms trapped inside crystals for as long as 60,000 years in a mine in Mexico. These strange ancient microbes have apparently evolved so they can survive on a diet of sulfite, manganese and copper oxide, said Penelope Boston of NASA's Astrobiology Institute in a presentation over the weekend at a conference of the American Association for the A ... read more

Related Links
NASA Astrobiology Institute
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

EXO WORLDS
Russia launches Progress MS-05 cargo mission to ISS

Cabbage Patch: 5th crop harvested aboard Space Station

Study: People don't want their future revealed

Art and space enter a new dimension

EXO WORLDS
SpaceX cargo ship aborts rendezvous with space station

Energia wants to finalize Sea Launch deal with Boeing

The Unique Triumph of PSLV-C37

Russia successfully launches space freighter after crash

EXO WORLDS
Scientists say Mars valley was flooded with water not long ago

Researchers pinpoint watery past on Mars

Opportunity passes 44 kilometers of surface travel after 13 years

Scientists shortlist three landing sites for Mars 2020

EXO WORLDS
China to launch first high-throughput communications satellite in April

Chinese cargo spacecraft set for liftoff in April

China looks to Mars, Jupiter exploration

China's first cargo spacecraft to leave factory

EXO WORLDS
Iridium Announces Target Date for Second Launch of Iridium NEXT

Italy, Russia working closely on Mars exploration, Earth monitoring satellites

NASA seeks partnerships with US companies to advance commercial space technologies

A New Space Paradigm

EXO WORLDS
Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made

New assembly method for ultra-conformable 'electronic tattoo' devices

Serendipity uncovers borophene's potential

Penn researchers are among the first to grow a versatile 2-dimensional material

EXO WORLDS
Ancient microbes push limits of what life can survive on Earth, and off

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist

Hunting for runaway worlds

EXO WORLDS
Juno to remain in current orbit at Jupiter

NASA receives science report on Europa lander concept

New Horizons Refines Course for Next Flyby

It's Never 'Groundhog Day' at Jupiter




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement