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Lauren Admire | 7 Jun 2010 21:00

Canadian Island Proves Life Could Exist on Mars

The question of whether or not there is life on Mars may have just been answered. Theoretically, at least. Dr. Lyle Whyte, a microbiologist at McGill University has been studying what survives in the Lost Hammer spring of Canada's Axel Heiberg Island. Bacteria exist in these springs, despite the fact the temperatures are sub-zero and there is no consumable oxygen. Bubbles of methane float to the surface, however, and these bacteria love them some CH4.

"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."

We've found out that Mars harbors methane and frozen water on its surface. The hoopla surrounded what was making them - bacteria often produce methane as a byproduct, but it seems that we missed an even more interesting assumption: if bacteria can exist in a super cold, super saline solution on Earth, couldn't it exist in the same environment on Mars?

"There are places on Mars where the temperature reaches relatively warm -10 to 0 degrees and perhaps even above 0ÂșC," states Whyte, "and on Axel Heiberg it gets down to -50, easy. The Lost Hammer spring is the most extreme subzero and salty environment we've found. This site also provides a model of how a methane seep could form in a frozen world like Mars, providing a potential mechanism for the recently discovered Martian methane plumes."

Source: Eureka Alert


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