A Key To Alien Life Right Here On Earth?
A Key To Alien Life Right Here On Earth?, Microbes deep in the ocean could help scientists learn about the possibility of life on Mars. Extreme Earth Microbes Pave Way for Discovery of Alien Life, The region beneath Earth’s surface may be crawling with diverse organisms, and now researchers reveal the lives of just one group of bizarre beasties: methane-spewing microbes that hide out in the c***ks of hot undersea volcanoes.
Called high-temperature methanogens, these microbes rely on the hydrogen and carbon dioxide in their superheated deep-sea vents for growth, excreting waste products like methane.
The possibility of past or present life on other worlds such as Mars, where the rover Curiosity has just set out to investigate whether the environment was ever fit for microbes, will become clearer by figuring out the extreme limits (or minimum requirements) for some organisms on Earth.
“Evidence has built over the past 20 years that there’s an incredible amount of biomass in the Earth’s subsurface, in the crust and marine sediments, perhaps as much as all the plants and animals on the surface,” microbiologist James Holden at the University of Massachusetts said in a statement. “We’re interested in the microbes in the deep rock, and the best place to study them is at hydrothermal vents at undersea volcanoes. Warm water flows bring the nutrient and energy sources they need.”
One way to figure out what’s hidden beneath Earth’s crust in extreme environments is to figure out the energy requirements of an organism and then see if various spots meet these thresholds for life. “We’re really interested in the equivalent of, ‘What is the size of your paycheck and what’s the cost of living?’” Holden told LiveScience. “How much energy is available for microorganisms: the paycheck. And what’s the lower threshold – they need this much energy to live in this environment.” [Gallery: Unique Life at Deep-Sea Vents]
To do this, the researchers collected methanogens from hydrothermal vents and tried growing them (along with commercially bought microbes) on different levels of hydrogen. From these experiments, they found the bare minimum of hydrogen that these microbes needed to survive (they all needed about the same concentrations).