Methanogens can survive low pressures on Mars

PIA16937a-br2New research at the University of Arkansas suggests that methanogens – among the simplest and oldest organisms on Earth – could survive on Mars. Methanogens, microorganisms in the domain Archaea, use hydrogen as their energy source and carbon dioxide as their carbon source, to metabolize and produce methane, also known as natural gas. (…) Methanogens are anaerobic, so they don’t require oxygen. They don’t require organic nutrients, either, and are non-photosynthetic, indicating they could exist in sub-surface environments and therefore are ideal candidates for life on Mars.

Rebecca Mickol, a doctoral student in space and planetary sciences, found that in the laboratory, four species of methanogens survived low-pressure conditions that simulated a subsurface liquid aquifer on Mars. [She presented the work at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held May 30-June 2 in New Orleans.]

“These organisms are ideal candidates for life on Mars,” Mickol says. “All methanogen species displayed survival after exposure to low pressure, indicated by methane production in both original and transfer cultures following each experiment. This work represents a stepping-stone toward determining if methanogens can exist on Mars.” [More at link]

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