Bacteria survive extremes that may have existed in ancient Mars lakes

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Microorganisms person adapted to 1 of the harshest environments connected Earth, a sulphurous and acidic water that is considered an analogue to past lakes connected Mars

Space 28 January 2022

By Chen Ly

The crater and its highly  harsh lake, Laguna Caliente, dominated by a azygous  genus of extremophile Acidiphilium bacteria

A volcanic crater successful Costa Rica with an highly harsh water known arsenic Laguna Caliente

Justin Wang

Bacteria person adapted to past the utmost conditions of a crater water successful the progressive Poás volcano successful Costa Rica, known arsenic Laguna Caliente. These microorganisms supply clues to however imaginable beingness whitethorn person existed nether akin circumstances connected Mars.

Situated astatine 2300 metres supra oversea level, Laguna Caliente is 1 of the harshest environments connected Earth. It is highly sulphurous and highly acidic, with pH values ranging betwixt -0.87 and 1.5. The water is besides taxable to wide fluctuating temperatures, ranging from 38°C to 90°C.

Laguna Caliente has akin mineral compositions to Gusev crater connected Mars, which was explored by NASA’s Spirit rover erstwhile it landed determination successful 2004. This suggests that lakes that whitethorn person existed connected Mars successful the past would besides person been acidic and hot, says Justin Wang astatine the University of Colorado Boulder.

To characterise Laguna Caliente’s microbiology, Wang and his squad analysed the DNA of microorganisms recovered successful samples of water fluid, clumps of sulphur and sediment successful 2013 and 2017.

The researchers recovered that the samples had a remarkably debased biodiversity compared with astir ecosystems connected Earth. The microorganisms were mostly bacteria from the genus Acidiphilium.

“We either expected to find thing astatine each due to the fact that this [environment] was truthful utmost oregon to find aggregate organisms due to the fact that that’s however astir microorganisms unrecorded with each other,” says Wang. “They trust connected each different successful precise symbiotic interactions.”

They recovered that the bacteria had developed specialised adaptations to withstand the lake’s hostile conditions, specified arsenic their quality to metabolise vigor from sulphur. But 1 of the astir astonishing findings was that the bacteria make bioplastics that enactment arsenic vigor stores, says Wang. “We judge that they usage these bioplastics to past connected the fringe of the water erstwhile eruptions are occurring,” helium says.

The findings suggest that beingness is imaginable successful the utmost environments that whitethorn person existed successful ancient crater lakes connected Mars.

“The results hint that the minerals formed nether these conditions connected Mars mightiness possibly beryllium associated with immoderate remains oregon traces of life.” says Sean McMahon astatine the University of Edinburgh successful the UK. “Even if these environments were habitable, we whitethorn ne'er cognize whether they were really inhabited unless they produced fossils of immoderate kind.”

Journal reference: Frontiers successful Astronomy and Space Sciences, DOI: 10.3389/fspas.2022.817900

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