If you want to know what kind of life could exist on Mars, you don’t have to look beyond the stomach of a cow. There are a variety of environmental factors on Mars which can threaten the life as we know it. But researchers have found that some methanogenic microorganisms can survive the Red Planet’s extreme temperature fluctuations, lack of oxygen, and very low atmospheric pressure. So, life on Mars could be a reality, actually.
If there is any life form that would exist, right now, on both Mars and Earth, it would be the methanogenic archaea, M. formicicum, which is a methane-producing microorganism found in the stomachs of cows and other places on Earth, as well.
Researchers at the University of Arkansas had placed different archeological methanogenic species under different temperature fluctuations ranging from -80 degrees Celsius to +22 degrees Celsius. These would be the conditions they would experience over a 48-hour period on Mars.
Methanogenic microorganisms could be the ideal candidates for the extinct or remaining life on Mars
“The freeze and thaw cycle had little effect on the growth of this organism,” said Rebecca Mickol from the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences. According to her, some of the microorganism died but, taking into account the methane gas amount that has been produced, a large part of the microorganisms survived.
Methanogenic species are of particular interest in the search for life on Mars because methane gas has been detected on the Red Planet in high amounts. These microorganisms are also known to survive in extreme conditions, such as hydrothermal vents in the sea and in permafrost.
Researchers describe these organisms as the “ideal candidates for the extinct or remaining life on Mars.”
M. formicicum is especially promising because it is one of the few methanogenic microorganisms that exhibit active growth at very low atmospheric pressures, of between 50 and 100 millibars, which are, in fact, similar values to those that could exist below the surface of Mars. This study indicates that the low-pressure environment on Mars could not be deadly for these microorganisms, therefore, the chances of the existence of life on Mars are increasing when it comes to microorganisms.