(ORDO NEWS) — Beneath the permafrost of Lost Hammer Spring in the Canadian Arctic is an extremely salty, very cold and almost anoxic environment, most similar to some regions of Mars. They found organisms that scientists did not know about before.
The study, published in The ISME Journal, was conducted by scientists at McGill University. They were able to analyze the metabolism of new microbes using advanced genomic methods and used modern methods of single-cell microbiology.
- The Lost Hammer Spring in Nunavut is one of the saltiest and coldest terrestrial springs found to date.
- The water that rises through 600 meters of permafrost to the surface is very salty, constantly at sub-zero temperatures and contains almost no oxygen.
- The very high salt concentration prevents the spring from freezing, allowing it to maintain a liquid water environment even at sub-zero temperatures.
- These conditions are similar to those observed in some regions of Mars where cold salt springs are possible.
The researchers show for the first time that microbial communities found under such conditions can survive by feeding on and inhaling simple inorganic compounds of the same type found on Mars – methane, sulfate, sulfide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. They can also capture nitrogen gases from the atmosphere, making them well adapted for survival.
It took several years of sediment work before we were able to successfully detect active microbial communities.
The salinity of the environment interferes with both extraction and sequencing of microbes, so when we were able to find evidence of active microbial communities, it was very nice.
explains researcher Alice Magnuson.
In total, the team isolated and sequenced the DNA of approximately 110 microorganisms, most of which had never been seen before.
These genomes allowed the team to determine how such creatures survive and thrive in this uniquely extreme environment without requiring organic materials or oxygen to survive.
The discovery piqued the interest of the European Space Agency, which selected several samples from Lost Hammer to see if the equipment of the upcoming ExoMars mission would respond to them.
Contact us: [email protected]