The next distraction from the major Mars evidence, yet fuelling public
imagination for the extraterrestrial.
from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/space/07/10/science.microbes.reut/index.html
Scientists: South Pole microbes hold implications
for life on other planets
July 10, 2000
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EDT (1639 GMT)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- In a finding that could have an impact on the
search for life on Mars and other planets, scientists say they have detected
hardy microbes that seem to thrive in the radiation, cold and darkness
at the South Pole.
"If the team's conclusions prove true, the discovery not only has
important implications for the search for life in other extreme environments
on Earth, but also for the possibility that life -- at least at the microscopic
level -- may exist elsewhere in the solar system," the National Science
Foundation (NSF) said Thursday in a statement.
The research on the South Pole microbes, which was supported by NSF,
was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Evidence of the tough little organisms shows them to be active even
in the extreme conditions of the South Pole. A similar species lives elsewhere
in Antarctica, but the microbes at the pole seem to have managed to adapt
themselves to the scarcity of liquid water and ultraviolet radiation from
the sun there.
"While we expected to find some bacteria in the South Pole snow,
we were surprised that they were metabolically active and synthesizing
DNA and protein at local ambient temperatures of 10.4 degrees to 1.4 degrees
Fahrenheit ," Edward Carpenter of the State University of New York
at Stony Brook said in the statement.
This may be significant in light of a report last month that there was
evidence that liquid water may have flowed recently on Mars. Liquid water
has generally been seen as a prerequisite for Earth-type life, but astronomers
have theorized that Mars, Earth's next-door neighbor, once was warm and
wet but now is extremely cold and dry, and therefore inhospitable to life.
But the South Pole microbes may have enzymes and membranes that help
them cope with their arid, frigid environment, NSF said.