ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Martian Microbes?

Researchers discover microbes in Oregon thriving in extreme, Mars-like conditions.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Green olivine crystals on lava rockWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, MILA ZINKOVA

In a lava tube in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, scientists identified a peculiar microbe—growing successfully in near-freezing temperatures with little access to oxygen and no source of organic food. The microbes generate energy by oxidizing iron from olivine, a volcanic mineral found in the surrounding rocks in the lava tube, as well as the rocks on Mars. The discovery, published this week in Astrobiology, could provide hints regarding the type of life one might expect to find on Mars.

“This reaction involving a common mineral from volcanic rocks just hasn’t been documented before,” coauthor Martin Fisk of Oregon State University said in a press release.

In 2006, Fisk found tracks on a meteorite from Mars that could have been caused by the consumption of the rock by microbes such as this one. Indeed, the team found similar...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT