Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saline hiding places for bacteria in Río Tinto could be like those on Mars

Date:
January 11, 2013
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
Researchers have identified microorganisms that live inside salt deposits in the acidic and ferrous environment of the Tinto River in Huelva, Spain. The extreme conditions of these microniches appear to be similar to those of the salt deposits on Mars and Jupiter's moon, Europa. This possibility should be borne in mind on missions operating in these places.

The natrojarosite precipitates of Río Tinto hide microorganisms (green) within their salt microniches.
Credit: F. Gómez / CAB.

Researchers at the Centre of Astrobiology have identified microorganisms that live inside salt deposits in the acidic and ferrous environment of the Tinto River in Huelva, Spain. The extreme conditions of these microniches appear to be similar to those of the salt deposits on Mars and Jupiter's moon, Europa. This possibility should be borne in mind on missions operating in these places, such as Curiosity.

The high doses of radiation, lack of moisture and extreme temperature and pressure on the surface of Mars make the development of life difficult. Within this hostile environment, scientists are searching for "friendlier" niches that could encourage life. One of the candidates is the salt deposits.

A team from the Centre of Astrobiology (CAB, INTA-CSIC) has analysed this kind of environment on Earth: the salt deposits associated to a mineral with sulphur and iron named natrojarosite. It can be found in the Río Tinto basin in Huelva and is very similar to one detected on Mars: jarosite. Its presence reveals the past or present existence of water.

"The salt deposits are good 'hosts' for biological remains and even life itself in extreme circumstances," as outlined by Felipe Gómez, coauthor of the study published in the journal Planetary and Space Science.

"The reason is that conditions in this environment remain less adverse than those of their surroundings given that they provide protection from radiation for example, and they keep moisture levels higher than outside," explains the researcher.

With the help of microscopic techniques and molecular ecology, the team has discovered a film of bacteria and algae living in salt 'microniches' invisible to the naked eye. Up to five different morphologies have been found of microorganisms belonging to the Dunaliella and Cyanidium genera.

The deposits analysed have been formed by layers each with a width of just a few millimetres. They make up a "completely different" ecosystem to the strange environment of Río Tinto.

"The precipitated minerals could only have been formed in such an acidic environment like this one and it is still even home to microbial communities in development. In order words, here they find their ideal environment," says Gómez.

According to the study, "the discovery of these protected microniches in one of Mars' analogue on Earth, like Río Tinto, is an important step in evaluating the habitability potential of the red planet."

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor probe has already detected alluvial fan-shaped salt formations on the Martian surface and scientists believe that that they could exist below the frozen ocean of one of Jupiter's satellites, Europa.

"From the astrological point of view, salt deposits are of great importance and should be considered when searching for life on space exploration missions, like the current Curiosity rover mission on Mars," concludes Gómez. In fact, salt deposits of astrobiological interest have been found not far from where the NASA rover is.

On Earth the CAB team has also studied extreme salt environments in Chott el Djerid Lake (Tunisia) and under the Atacama Desert (Chile).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F. Gómez, J.A. Rodríguez-Manfredi, N. Rodríguez, M. Fernández-Sampedro, F.J. Caballero-Castrejón, R. Amils. Habitability: Where to look for life? Halophilic habitats: Earth analogs to study Mars habitability. Planetary and Space Science, 2012; 68 (1): 48 DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2011.12.021

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Saline hiding places for bacteria in Río Tinto could be like those on Mars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130111092453.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2013, January 11). Saline hiding places for bacteria in Río Tinto could be like those on Mars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130111092453.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Saline hiding places for bacteria in Río Tinto could be like those on Mars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130111092453.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) — SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — NASA's Maven will soon give information that could explain what happened to Mars' atmosphere. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — NASA sent a 3-D printer to the International Space Station, bringing manufacturing to space for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins