Feeds

Arctic microbes 'could survive on Mars'

Methane-gobbling Canadian life suited to red planet

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Canadian boffins say they have discovered a strange form of microbe living in remote Arctic springs which would, if taken to some parts of Mars, be able to survive there.

The salt-domed Lost Hammer spring on Axel Heiberg island in arctic Canada. Credit: McGill uni

You're not going to believe it, but I've actually lost my bastard hammer

The weird lifeforms were found in a sub-freezing but extremely salty spring called Lost Hammer on Axel Heiberg Island in the far Canadian north. The Lost Hammer spring water has no breathable oxygen in it as most of Earth's water does, and as such normal marine life can't exist in it.

But the Lost Hammer spring does have bubbling methane gas, giving off a methane plume not unlike the ones recently discovered on Mars. Canadian microbiologist Dr Lyle Whyte says that it is also home to bizarre microbial life.

"[We found] very unique anaerobic organisms – organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen," explains the doc.

"There are places on Mars where the temperature reaches relatively warm -10 to 0 degrees and perhaps even above 0°C," Whyte said, "and on Axel Heiberg it gets down to -50, easy. The Lost Hammer spring is the most extreme subzero and salty environment we've found."

Recent Martian research has shown the presence of environments on the red planet similar to that in the depths of the Lost Hammer. There's nothing to indicate that the gassy, freezing waters of Mars are also home to life; but Whyte argues that his discovery shows that they could be.

"If you have a situation where you have very cold salty water, it could potentially support a microbial community, even in that extreme harsh environment," he says.

The doc's research is published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.