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If Martian life existed a few billion years ago, scientists think any plant-like microbes would have left behind a stringy fuzz of fibers.
That's because here on Earth, researchers now say they have found such ancient fuzz, called cellulose, preserved in chunks of salt deposited more than 250 million years ago — making it the oldest biological substance yet recovered. The announcement comes about a week after a team of planetary scientists announced discovering evaporated salt deposits on Mars and adds another element of hope to the search for alien life or signs of its past biology.
In fact, microscopic cellulose fibers might be one of the best signatures of any past life on the red planet, said Jack Griffith, a microbiologist at the University of South Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"These fibers are the oldest native, intact remnants of a living thing ever directly observed," Griffith told SPACE.com. "It's extremely fortuitous timing, as we've just discovered salt deposits on Mars' surface."
Newly Found Martian Salt Deposits Suggest Ancient Life
Christensen, who co-authored a March 21st study in the journal Science detailing the findings, said the salt deposits are a clear sign of water's past presence, adding that they could be the most welcoming environment for life on Mars yet discovered...
He added that some of the oldest organisms ever discovered on Earth have been found locked away in salt crystals, and that there may be Martian life forms entombed in the new crumbly flats that are about 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 meters) thick.