Organisms and Life from Earth Can Survive the Harsh Conditions on Mars

First Posted: Jun 03, 2015 06:58 AM EDT

It turns out that organisms from Earth could survive in the harsh conditions on Mars. New research reveals that methanogens, which are among the oldest organisms on Earth, may be at home on the Red Planet.

Methanogens are microorganisms in the domain Archaea. They use hydrogen as their energy source and carbon dioxide as their carbon source in order to metabolize and produce methane, also known as natural gas. Methanogens largely live in swamps and marshes, but they can also be found in the guts of cattle, termites and other herbivores as well as in dead and decaying matter.

Methanogens don't require oxygen, organic nutrients or the sun to survive. This means that they could exist in subsurface environments, which makes them ideal for life on Mars.

In this case, the researchers tested several species of methanogens in the lab. They found that four survived low-pressure conditions that simulated a subsurface liquid aquifer on Mars.

"These organisms are ideal candidates for life on Mars," said Rebecca Mickol, one of the researchers, in a news release. "All methanogen species displayed survival after exposure to low pressure, indicated by methane production in both original and transfer cultures following each experiment. This work represents a stepping-stone toward determining if methanogens can exist on Mars."

The new findings reveal that there is hope for life on Mars. It's possible that organisms live in subsurface pockets of water in order to avoid the harsher surface conditions on the Red Planet. This also reveals the locations where researchers should look as they continue their hunt for life.

The findings will be presented at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

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