Evidence of survival of terrestrial microorganisms found on Mars

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(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the Faculty of Soil Science at Lomonosov Moscow State University have found evidence of the survival of terrestrial microorganisms on Mars. This was reported on Monday by the press service of the university.

“The staff of the Department of Soil Biology, Faculty of Soil Science, Moscow State University first studied the effect of high concentration perchlorates on terrestrial analogs of hypothetical microbial communities of Mars. It was found that a high concentration of perchlorates does not lead to death, but contributes to an increase in the number of many microorganisms. This indicates the possibility of survival of terrestrial microorganisms in regolith (residual soil, a product of space weathering of rock in situ – approx. TASS) on Mars,” the message says.

The work was published in the International Journal of Astrobiology. “The results of such studies are needed to assess the possibility of detecting life on various space bodies, as well as to select regions and landforms where it is possible to detect organisms. All this is required for planning space missions, including the development of their methods and equipment, as well as for prevention of pollution of other planets and satellites by terrestrial microorganisms,” – said in the message.

One of the main obstacles to the development of terrestrial microorganisms in the conditions of Mars is the lack of liquid water. The average annual temperature on the planet is about minus 50 degrees Celsius. At low temperatures, water is in the form of ice, and when temperatures rise, water immediately turns into steam, since atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 100 times lower than Earth‘s. Thanks to space missions, it was found that perchlorates are present in the regolith of Mars in concentrations of about 0.5-1%. Scientists speculate that they may contribute to the formation and storage of liquid water on Mars, since their solutions have low freezing points.

Effect of perchlorates on microbial communities

“The faculty members studied the effect of perchlorates in high concentrations (5%) on the microbial communities of desert soil and ancient frozen rocks. Such microbial communities are considered as terrestrial analogs of hypothetical microbial communities on Mars, since they exist in extreme conditions,” the report says. soils and rocks were moistened with a perchlorate solution or water, then incubated for 10 days, and after that the abundance and diversity of microorganisms were investigated in the samples.Scientists used methods of cultivation, epifluorescence microscopy, in situ fluorescence hybridization, multisubstrate testing, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry lipids. Sample preparation and incubation and most microbiological analyzes were performed at Moscow State University.”

It turned out that the presence of such a high concentration of perchlorates did not lead to the death of the microbial community. Moreover, there was an increase in the abundance of many microorganisms and the preservation of a large biodiversity, comparable to that in the samples without perchlorates. “Thus, it has been shown that the presence of 5% perchlorate in soils and rocks does not lead to the death or significant inhibition of microbial communities. This testifies in favor of the possibility of survival of terrestrial microorganisms in the Mars regolith,” Faculty of Soil Science, Moscow State University, Vladimir Kuptsov.


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