Home Science Life on Mars: Scientists grow rock-eating organisms on Martian meteorite

Life on Mars: Scientists grow rock-eating organisms on Martian meteorite


NASA’s Perseverance Rover has arrived at Mars and will begin looking for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. Back here on Earth, scientists are playing their part in the hunt for alien life forms by attempting to prove life may have once existed on Mars.

The latest study from experts saw microscopic microbes grown on an ancient piece of Mars rock that had been transported to Earth.

Martian rocks on our planet are few and far between, but the Martian Black Beauty is one of them.

The Martian Black Beauty is a small piece of Mars, weighing just 320 grams, which was transported to our planet following a meteor or asteroid impact on Mars.

As the space rock hit the Red Planet around 4.4 billion years ago, chunks of Mars were ejected into space and a small percentage of these rocks eventually made their way to Earth.

In Mars’s early days, the conditions could have been similar to Earth, harbouring bodies of water with warmer temperatures across the planet.

However, there would have been much more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Martian atmosphere compared to Earth.

On Earth, scientists know some organisms can survive in CO2 rich environments.

These microorganisms, called chemolithotrophs, are capable of transforming the energy of stones to the energy of life.

READ MORE: How long does it take to get to Mars?

“Black Beauty is among the rarest substances on Earth, it is a unique Martian breccia formed by various pieces of Martian crust (some of them are dated at 4.42 ± 0.07 billion years) and ejected millions of years ago from the Martian surface.

“We had to choose a pretty bold approach of crushing a few grams of precious Martian rock to recreate the possible look of Mars’ earliest and simplest life form.

“Grown on Martian crustal material, the microbe formed a robust mineral capsule comprised of complexed iron, manganese and aluminium phosphates.

“Apart from the massive encrustation of the cell surface, we have observed intracellular formation of crystalline deposits of a very complex nature (Fe, Mn oxides, mixed Mn silicates).

“These are distinguishable unique features of growth on the Noachian Martian breccia, which we did not observe previously when cultivating this microbe on terrestrial mineral sources and a stony chondritic meteorite.”


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