A team of scientists made a bizarre new discovery. They have detected cave life, more exactly, microbial life whilst exploring the Mexican caves system. And this may just be some 50,000 years old.
Biologists are quite confident when making the following statement. The Earth is home to many types of lifeforms. And most of them are extremely versatile and also tough. So why should we be surprised that some caves hold traces of microbial life?
According to research, we shouldn’t. And a recent exploration mission goes to prove this fact. The project was led by Dr. Penelope Boston. She is the NASA Astrobiology Institute Director. And during the AAAS, she presented the first results of their studies.
AAAS is the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Its 2017 meeting is currently underway. It started on February 16th and will end on February 20th. It is being held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
The biologist team led by Dr. Boston made an interesting discovery. As a paper on the matter will be released in a scientific journal, an initial set of results was presented on February 17th.
And according to the presentation, the biologist found cave life. More exactly, they detected microbial lifeforms trapped in giant crystals. These were located deep inside a mine in the Mexican cave system. Samples were taken from crystals in the Cave of Crystals. This is part of the Naica mine, situated in Chihuahua, a northern state.
The cave life seems to be quite bizarre. Especially when taking into consideration their preferred food sources. These microbial creatures were noted to thrive on sulfur, iron, and various other chemicals.
Initial research considers them quite new species, ones as yet unknown by scientists. More studies on the matter will have to be carried out.
Still, this initial study did point out some other interesting facts. The cave life appears to still be active. But at the same time, it is believed to have been “slumbering” over these past tens of thousands of years.
Dr. Boston and her team took samples crystals from the cave back in 2008 and 2009. More exactly, they gathered fluid samples formed in the pockets of the crystals.
Since then, the research team has also been able to “wake up” the cave life. And they also proceeded to grow lab cultures, according to Boston.
These organisms were seen to be genetically distinct from any other life form on Earth. Still, they present similarities with other microbial life detected in cave systems or volcanic terrains.
The oldest Crystals in the Cave of Crystals are believed to be 500,000 years old. Based on the crystals growth rate and this latter age, research tried to establish the cave life’s age.
Which led them to the following conclusions. The cave life may have been living in its crystal cocoons for something in between 10,000 to 50,000 years.
Most of the discovered cave life are microbes, about 40 strains. And there are also a few viruses. These bizarre lifeforms, specifically the microbes, were called “super life”.
Dr. Boston, the one to call them as such, continued as follows. According to her, this latest discovery brings new light to the resilience and power of microorganisms. They have long since been known to be able to survive in even extremely harsh environments. And this find just brings further proof on the matter.
It is also an encouraging sign for aerospace enthusiasts. Those searching for signs of life on other planets should see this cave life as a sign of resilience. And also of life’s ability to cope and adapt.
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