Life Possible on Mars

Researchers have discovered that methanogenic bacteria that produce methane in Canada could be similar to earlier or present springs on Mars – suggesting possibility of life sustenance.

Dr. Lyle Whyte, McGill University microbiologist, doubted the possibility of life in such a hypersaline subzero environment. But big bubbles of methane that come to the surface at the spring located on Axel Heiberg Island provoked the researchers'' curiosity as to whether the gas was being produced geologically or biologically.

"We were surprised that we did not find methanogenic bacteria that produce methane at Lost Hammer," Whyte said, "but we did find other very unique anaerobic organisms – organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen."

Methane and frozen water was discovered very recently on Mars, but the source of the two is still unknown.

“The point of the research is that it doesn''t matter where the methane is coming from," Whyte explained.

"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."

"There are places on Mars where the temperature reaches relatively warm -10 to 0 degrees and perhaps even above 0 degree 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. This site also provides a model of how a methane seep could form in a frozen world like Mars, providing a potential mechanism for the recently discovered Martian methane plumes."

Copyright: arcticle: Phenomenica

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