Jan. 20, 2012, noonView more articles
Over the years scientists have found many microbes which can survive in extremely hostile conditions; from those that live in highly acidic waters to those which make the frozen depths of the oceans their home. But now researchers from Oregon State University have discovered microbes in ice from natural caves deep within a volcanic mountain range that can tolerate conditions similar to those found on Mars.
The microbes were discovered deep within the Cascade Mountains, a mountain range that stretches along the northwestern coast of America. They are closely related to other microbes commonly found on earth but, uniquely, they have the ability to tolerate near-freezing temperatures and very low oxygen levels, as well as being able to grow in the absence of organic food.
In these hostile conditions the microbe’s metabolism is driven by the oxidation of iron from olivine, a common volcanic mineral found in the surrounding rocks. According to the researchers who unearthed the microbes, this makes them capable of living on Mars.