Space & Astronomy
'Conan the Bacterium' could survive on Mars for 280 million years
By T.K. Randall
October 28, 2022 · 22 comments
Is there life beneath the surface of Mars ? Image Credit: NASA / JPL
An Earth-based extremophile has shown that it is possible for life to survive on Mars for very long periods of time.
The Red Planet remains one of the most tantalizing places in the known universe to look for evidence of primitive extraterrestrial life, not least owing to the fact that Mars was once a much warmer, wetter place than it is today and could have conceivably hosted life in its distant past.
There is an increasing body of evidence, however, to suggest that there could even be organisms alive on Mars today - and scientists are only now beginning to understand where to find them.
One recent study focused on a type of Earth-based extremophile known as Deinococcus radiodurans
(nicknamed 'Conan the Bacterium' due to its innate hardiness.)
The research, which was headed up by Prof Michael Daly at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland, found that this particular organism was capable of surviving a hellish onslaught of dangerous conditions ranging from lethal radiation exposure to extreme temperatures.
The findings suggested that if this particular bacterium (or something equivalent to it) was present on Mars, it would be capable of surviving for 280 million years at a depth of 33ft beneath the surface.
It is worth noting, however, that it has been several billion years since Mars was potentially habitable.
"Although Deinococcus radiodurans
buried in the Martian subsurface could not survive dormant for the estimated 2 to 2.5 billion years since flowing water disappeared on Mars, such Martian environments are regularly altered and melted by meteorite impacts," said Prof Daly.
"We suggest that periodic melting could allow intermittent repopulation and dispersal."
So while the research doesn't prove that there is life on Mars, it does at least suggest that the survival of such organisms on the Red Planet is plausible.
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