Lots of salt. Cold. And almost no oxygen. Extreme conditions that resemble the characteristics of certain Martian regions. However, they are those of a very earthly source. A source on the surface of which researchers have just discovered living microbes, which could therefore just as well… have developed on Mars!
Nunavut is the territory that extends the most in. And somewhere in Nunavut, there is a spring that could almost be described as otherworldly. Lost Hammer Spring, it is the coldest source known to date on our Earth. Its water crosses 600 meters of before reaching the surface. Its temperature never exceeds 0°C. However, it does not freeze. Because Lost Hammer Spring is also the the saltiest known source on our planet. A salinity of around 24%. Far from the 3.5% of the Mediterranean Sea, but also from the 34% of the .
And if scientists evoke a source from another world, it is because these extreme conditions remind them of those which exist in certain regions of Mars, in particular. Especially since Lost Hammer Spring also contains almost no. A unique opportunity for researchers to better understand the type of life forms that could exist on the Red Planet.
Studies had already revealed the possibility for certain microbes to develop in such extreme environments. But today, (Canada) report having discovered, in taken from the side of Lost Hammer Spring, microbes never observed before. And more importantly, live, active microbes.
Discover the secret of the survival of these microbes
It was not easy. Because the salinity of the water doesn’t just make life difficult. It also complicates the work of researchers. They still managed to extract a hundred of these. To isolate and to rebuild their using state-of-the-art tools. What to understand how microbes can survive in this extreme environment.
“The microbes in Lost Hammer Spring are amazing. They don’t need organic matter or oxygen to live.says Lyle Whyte, researcher, in a . “They survive by eating simple inorganic compounds such as methane, sulphates, and . »
The result is exciting. Because all these ingredients are also available on Mars. But to find out if such micro-organisms could have existed on the– and may still exist – researchers will have to go a little further. Cultivate these microbes – especially the most active of them – to understand why and how they thrive in extreme environments. And perhaps also, to help interpret the amazing of sulfur and carbon discovered in the Gale crater by the rover of the Curiosity.
While waiting to find out more, the European Space Agency (ESA) has already decided to use the sediment samples collected near Lost Hammer Spring to test the life detection capabilities of the instruments to be carried on board its.