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Primitive bacteria that lived 2.75 billion years ago built themselves caves to live in, according to a new study. Today, the traces they left behind are stoking hopes that similar life forms could exist on Mars.
Birger Rasmussen of Curtin University of Technology in Bentley, Australia, and a team of researchers have found what they believe is evidence that bacteria nearly 3 billion years old lived on the roofs of tiny hollows in lake and river sediments.
Just a centimeter or so tall and a couple of millimeters across, the 'caves' aren't much to look at. But they formed in a curious fashion -- bacteria grew in air-tight sheets, which inflated like balloons as they trapped methane gas seeping up through the sediments. Over time the bacteria built up layer upon layer of material on the cave roofs, descending deeper into the sediment and forming the laminate fossils Rasmussen's team discovered.
"Cavity dwelling would've been a good way of escaping harsh radiation at the surface," Rasmussen said. "The cavities were protected and probably had water seeping through."
The team's finding, published this month in the journal Geology, strengthens a longstanding hypothesis that similar life forms may be hiding out on Mars.
Early Earth was a rough place to live -- there was no oxygen in the atmosphere, or ozone layer to protect the surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Today the Martian surface is desolate, and probably too harsh to support life -- though much colder, it's similar in many ways to the young Earth. And newly uncovered hints of water provide hope that life underground is still hanging on.
"By 2.75 billion years ago, you've got life on land and in the sea, so life in a cave is not that shocking," Robert Rye of the University of Southern California said. "On the other hand, it's nice to know that we have evidence of life in a potentially good analogue environment for underground voids on Mars."
Europa vs. Titan. They're two moons in the outer solar system, both circling gas giants but otherwise as alien from each other as alien can be. One orbits Jupiter and is a crusty iceball with signs of a very deep subsurface ocean. The other orbits Saturn and has a thick atmosphere, dramatic weather, lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, methane rain, and sand dunes of organic material the color of coffee grounds.
For many months and years, two scientific camps polished their proposals, each hoping that its moon would get official sanction as NASA's next "flagship" mission to the outer solar system. The answer finally arrived last week: Europa, and by extension the whole Jupiter system, will be first.
Originally posted by jdub297
NASA, ESA and other space-science consortiums have now gathered proof of conditions on Mars, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn , sufficient to support extraterrestrial life.
Originally posted by Gawdzilla
reply to post by jdub297
So, do you have any anticipations as to what "level of complexity" we might encounter here in the solar system?
I'm not sure why you've linked a good question to Cydonia and whatnot
Before we can ever attempt to answer the original question we must look in to whether or not the evidence that NASA, ESA and other space-science consortiums have given us is indeed what they say it is.
Unfortunately, your going to have a very hard time on this subject as the majority of us take any evidence supplied by any space- science consortium with a pinch of salt.
Originally posted by jdub297
Why scour photos for modern analogues to the Martian "canali," once accepted by a consensus of the learned as 'proof' of life on Mars, when the evidence is "in our backyard," and the means to find it on the red planet are in place and capable?
Originally posted by Cygnific
If we find anything, how can we be sure it was not us who put it there first? We landed on mars, venus and the moon and most likely something was taken with it, and maybe we even killed something 40 years ago.
It's a paradoxical situation as many of us can be persuaded by Malmstrom, Indian Point, Height 611, Colares, Rendlesham etc that 'life' is active in some way. Despite this, it isn't 'confirmation.' Proving that methane on Mars is an outcome of biology or that Europa has arctic flowers is where my hopes are focused.
If I awake one groggy morning to a news bulletin screaming 'Contact!', I'll be as pleased as finding an extremophile amoeba on a Jovian moon. We'll still all be at school, college or work the next day...
Just because somebody finds a puddle of muddy water somewhere doesn't mean there's anything in it besides mud and water.