There is life in one of the worst places on Earth: evidence of Mars?

No oxygen, negative temperatures and a lot of salt: this is an uninhabitable environment. However, microorganisms are found there. This research is important to understanding life on Earth… and possibly on Mars.

Welcome to the source of The Lost Hammer Water on Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian Arctic. In this underground, there are freezing temperatures below zero. At such temperatures, water is supposed to freeze. But this one is so salty that it isn’t. It also contains no oxygen (or a level too low to be consumed). Therefore, Lost Hammer Spring is an icy spring, but liquid, as much as it is extremely salty and unbreathable. Life in such a place would be extremely unlikely. However, life can surprise.

Scientists discovered bubbles of methane rising to the surface. This phenomenon can be of both geological and biological origin. This is the mystery that a field study attempted to answer, from the sediments collected at the site. Originally Posted In April 2022Commented by its authors at the end of June 2022 On the McGill University website (The origin of this research).

Spring of the Lost Hammer // Source: McGill University / Ellis Magnuson

It turns out that methane bubbles have a biological and therefore living source: anaerobic organisms (which do not require oxygen), which primarily feed on methane and breathe sulfate instead of oxygen. ” It took us two years of sediment work before we were able to detect active microbial communities ‘, says Ellis Magnuson, a doctoral student at McGill University and the study’s lead author. Because environmental salinity interferes with the extraction and sequencing of microbes.

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Could life on Mars look like this?

This discovery is surprising, because the microorganisms in the Lost Hammer ” Do not depend on organic matter or oxygen to live “Instead, they live on inorganic compounds — methane, sulfides, sulfates, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide,” says Lyle White, team leader. They can also fix carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas from the surrounding atmosphere, making them highly suitable for surviving and thriving in extremely harsh environments on Earth and beyond. »

But why does Lyle Whyte also come with so harsh environments? behind In the ground? It turns out that on Mars, there are traces of the same inorganic compounds on which these organisms depend; And there they are frozen water. As a result, the European Space Agency has recovered several samples from Lost Hammer to test the organic life detection capabilities of its ExoMars mission (including the launch of the rover). pause).

This research work demonstrates that the origin of methane ” not important “,” Values Lyle White. ” If you are in a situation where you have extremely cold salt water, you will likely harbor a microbial community, even in this very harsh environment. »

Such conclusions do not at all prove the existence of life on Mars. They show their potential and what form these beings can take. However, to find something, it is very useful to know approximately what you are looking for.

Everything you need to know about the Red Planet Mars

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