Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hitchhiking bacteria could compromise the detection of life on Mars

04.04.2003



Is there life on Mars? It’s possible, but it may not be Martian, say scientists. New research, published in the open access journal BMC Microbiology, suggests that conditions on Mars are capable of supporting dormant bacteria, known as endospores. This raises concern about future attempts to detect Martian life forms because endospores originating on Earth could potentially hitch a ride to Mars and survive on its surface.
Soil on Mars is thought to be rich in oxidising chemicals that are known to destroy life. The high levels of ultraviolet radiation on the surface of the planet make it unlikely that any organism could survive. Ronald Crawford and colleagues from the University of Idaho have investigated whether bacterial endospores can exist in Mars’s hostile environment.

Endospores are a survival form of bacteria, formed when they find themselves in an unfavourable environment, and are perhaps the most resilient life form on Earth. They are resistant to extreme temperatures, most disinfectants, radiation, drying, and can survive for thousands of years in this dormant state. There is even evidence that they can survive in the vacuum of space. Given the possibility of endospores hitching a lift on spacecraft bound for Mars, Ronald Crawford and his colleagues investigated whether endospores could survive in a simulated Martian environment.


Martian soil was created by mixing dry sand containing endospores with ferrate. The soil was then left at –20 oC and exposed to high levels of UV light for six weeks. These conditions were designed to simulate the dry, cold, oxidizing environment found on Mars. Subsequent analysis of the soil showed that endospores were still alive below a depth of 5mm, suggesting that life is possible in these hostile conditions.

The authors speculate, “that if entities resembling bacterial endospores were produced at some point by life forms on Mars, they might still be present and viable, given appropriate germination conditions.”

Although the researchers have not found direct evidence for life on Mars their research does throw up a potential problem with future space missions. The survival of endospores in such adverse conditions raises the possibility that bacterial endospores could travel to Mars on the surface of spacecraft and survive on Martian soil. This could seriously compromise future efforts to establish whether there is, or has been life on Mars, as it would be difficult for researchers to know whether any endospores found originated from Earth or Mars.

Whilst this work establishes that bacterial endospores can survive exposure to the conditions probably found on Mars, it should be noted that it was not possible to test whether their simulated Martian environment would kill endospores over a geological timescale.

Gordon Fletcher | BioMed Central Limited
Further information:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2180-3-4.pdf
http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/about/pr-releases?pr=20030403

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>