A tunnelling operation five years ago in the town of Fox, Alaska revealed something surprising - a type of bacteria that hasn't been seen on Earth
since the Pleistocene Age. Not only were a significant number of these microscopic organisms discovered as workers bored through Alaksa's
perrmafrost, but on thawing the samples, the Carnobacterium pleistocenium
reanimated and began swimming around immediately. The reanimation of
these organisms may point to a higher likelihood of life existing on Mars. Recent evidence from the red planet indicates that liquid water once
flowed on its now-barren surface and that a large frozen body of water lies near its equator.
He discovered the bacterium near the town of Fox, Alaska, in a tunnel drilled through permafrost -- a mix of permanently frozen ice, soil and rock --
that is kept at a constant temperature of 24.8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 4 degrees Celcius).
"When they cut into the Fox tunnel, they actually cut through Pleistocene ice wedges, which are similar to structures that we see on Mars," Hoover
said in a telephone interview.
The ice wedges contained a golden-brown layer about a half-yard (half-meter) thick, and this layer contained a group of microscopic brownish bacteria,
When he looked at a small sample of this bacteria-laden ice under a microscope, Hoover said, "These bacteria that had just thawed out of the ice ...
were swimming around. The instant the ice melted, they started swimming. They were alive ... but they had been frozen for over 30,000 years."
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Liquid water is considered a necessity for any sort of life to exist. The recently discovered Martian sea is theorized to receive enough heat from
the sun that its frozen state is periodically warmed below the surface to the degree that basic lifeforms could flourish.
With the evidence of Carnobacterium pleistocenium's
ability to lie in suspended animation while frozen, scientists now speculate that similar
organisms may lie waiting beneath the frozen surface of Mars.
"The other thing that's exciting: Just like we found in the Fox tunnel of Alaska, frozen biology in the form of unicellular bacteria might even have
remained alive, frozen in the Martian sea," said NASA scientist Richard Hoover.
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