(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at McGill University (Canada) have discovered microorganisms that can survive in a harsh environment close to Martian conditions. The discovery is reported in an article published in The ISME Journal.
Researchers have shown that microbial communities at high latitudes in Canada, adapted to near-Martian conditions, can survive by consuming simple inorganic compounds that have already been identified on Mars (such as methane, sulfide, sulfate, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide).
These microorganisms live in an extremely salty, cold and anoxic environment under the permafrost in the Lost Hammer Spring mineral spring.
Lost Hammer Spring is one of the coldest and saltiest terrestrial springs discovered to date. The water that passes through 600 meters of permafrost to the surface has extreme salinity (~24 percent salinity), sub-zero temperatures (approximately -5 degrees Celsius), and almost no oxygen (<1 ppm of dissolved oxygen).
The very high concentration of salt does not allow the spring to freeze, maintaining a liquid habitat for microbes even at freezing temperatures. These conditions are similar to those seen in parts of Mars where salt deposits and possible cold salt springs are widespread.
The scientists isolated and sequenced the DNA of microbial communities living in the spring, allowing them to reconstruct the genomes of approximately 110 microorganisms, most of which had never been seen before.
This allowed the researchers to identify active genes and understand how organisms adapt to extreme environments.
The genomes of active anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea (ANME-1) have shown signs of putative metabolic flexibility and adaptation to hypersaline and cold exposure.
Evidence for an anaerobic heterotrophic and enzymatic lifestyle has been found in the genomes of archaea, most likely of the DPANN supertype, and bacteria of the CG03 type.
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