Scientists have discovered a type of bacteria some 2,000 feet beneath the surface of an extremely arid desert in Europe. They say that this discovery hints at the possibility that there may be life on Mars.
According to experts, the fact that microorganisms are able to survive punishing condition at the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain’s southernmost region, means that similar organisms could thrive deep beneath the surface of the red planet.
By exploring the Pyrite Belt, a region of land stretching 250 kilometers from Portugal to Spain, experts have found evidence of cyanobacteria that has evolved in order to survive in total darkness.
Typically, they rely on photosynthesis producing energy from sunlight. However, this bacterium survives beneath Spain’s Iberian Peninsula in conditions that experts say are not too dissimilar to Mars.
This has led researcher Dr. Fernando Puente-Sancheza, of the Spanish National Centre for Biotechnology to indicate that same, or similar microorganisms can not only survive on Mars but on other similar cosmic bodies across the galaxy.
Speaking to the Independent, Dr. Puente-Sancheza explained:
“The subsurface is a good place to live on if you are on Mars.”
“On the surface in Mars, there is almost no atmosphere so you get a lot of radiation that could damage life. If you go some meters below the surface then you are protected, it is a very stable environment.”
The key, suggests Dr. Puente-Sancheza is robust and adaptive cyanobacteria.
“You go to the desert, you have cyanobacteria; you go to the sea, you find cyanobacteria.”
“You go to the International Space Station, and they can get the microbes up and get them down, and they survive. The last habitat we hadn’t seen before was the sub-surface,” explains Dr. Puente-Sancheza.
Furthermore, experts say that the genetic structure of cyanobacteria could tell us a lot about the type of alien life–if any–exists on Mars.
According to experts, Cyanobacteria most likely relies on generating energy using hydrogen as fuel.
“Whenever there were large amounts of cyanobacteria in the samples, the hydrogen concentrations decreased – that could indicate the cyanobacteria are indeed consuming that hydrogen,” explained Dr. Puente-Sancheza.
Dr. Puente-Sancheza’s findings were published in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper.
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