Microbiologists like Dr. Melanie Mormile from Missouri University of Science and Technology are studying organisms found in the salt-water lakes of western Australia that have an acidic pH because the lakes’ conditions are similar to those found on Mars.
Mormile’s research findings was published in the journal Astrobiology Dec. 30.
Until recently, it was thought that life could not be sustained in lakes like those Mormile studied in Australia, which tend to have a high concentration of metals and other ions due to the type of rocks that form the lake floors. Mormile and her fellow researchers found that prokaryotes, simple organisms that lack a nucleus, were able to handle the unusual conditions.
“When you look at these extreme environments, only the prokaryotes have the metabolic capability to survive,” Mormile says.
Mormile’s group took samples from 11 lakes in western Australia. They found a great deal of diversity among bacteria present in each. The diversity was grouped by the environmental conditions present in each of the lakes.
In the future, Mormile hopes to return to Australia to isolate and characterize the bacteria in each of four of the lakes originally sampled to determine what, if any, new species may be thriving there.
Once Mormile knows what organisms are present in the lake, she can then determine things like how they consume carbon sources and produce energy. Knowing the types of metabolism present in these acidic high-saline lakes would help researchers understand the metabolism required for life on Mars.
Mormile sees no end to the knowledge that can be gained from this research. “Once you start answering questions, new questions always surface,” she says. She also hopes to explore potential applied uses for the microbes she finds.
“I want to determine if any of the organisms can be used in bioremediation,” Mormile says. “They might also have industrial uses. For example, there may be enzymes present that could be used as cleaning agents.”
Whether or not Mormile’s research leads to a definitive answer about life on Mars, she and her colleagues showed that life does exist in the extreme environments found in acidic salt-water lakes in Australia.
“As a microbiologist, it seems obvious that wherever there is liquid water, there is usually life present,” Mormile says. “Just because you can’t see it with the naked eye, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”
Working with Mormile on this project were Bo-Young Hong, a Ph.D. student at Binghamton University who earned a master of science degree in biological sciences from Missouri S&T in 2007, and Kathleen Benison, a geologist at Central Michigan University.
Mary Helen Stoltz | Newswise Science News
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences