MONTREAL, June 8 (UPI) — Canadian and U.S. scientists say they’ve concluded life might survive on Mars since they’ve found evidence of bacteria in a martian-like environment on Earth.
Researchers at Canada’s McGill University, the University of Toronto, the National Research Council of Canada and the SETI Institute in the United States say they have discovered methane-eating bacteria survive in a unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Northern Canada.
Lyle Whyte, a McGill microbiologist, said the Lost Hammer Spring supports microbial life — and the spring’s environment is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars. That, he said, means the “Red Planet” might also support a form of life.
The Canadian spring’s sub-zero water is so salty it doesn’t freeze and it has no consumable oxygen in it. There are, however, big bubbles of methane that come to the surface, which had provoked the researchers’ curiosity as to whether the gas was being produced geologically or biologically and whether anything could survive in such an extreme hypersaline sub-zero environment.
“We were surprised that we did not find methanogenic bacteria that produce methane at Lost Hammer,” Whyte said. “But we did find other very unique anaerobic organisms — organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen.”
The research appeared in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal.
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