Australian lakes may hold clues to life on Mars

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Washington, January 9 (ANI): In a new research, a team of scientists is studying organisms found in Australian Lakes, which they believe may hold clues to life on Mars.

The research, by microbiologists like Dr. Melanie Mormile from Missouri University of Science and Technology are studying organisms found in the salt-water lakes of western Australia that have an acidic pH because the lakes' conditions are similar to those found on Mars.

Until recently, it was thought that life could not be sustained in lakes like those Mormile studied in Australia, which tend to have a high concentration of metals and other ions due to the type of rocks that form the lake floors.

Mormile and her fellow researchers found that prokaryotes, simple organisms that lack a nucleus, were able to handle the unusual conditions.

"When you look at these extreme environments, only the prokaryotes have the metabolic capability to survive," Mormile said.

Mormile's group took samples from 11 lakes in western Australia. They found a great deal of diversity among bacteria present in each.

The diversity was grouped by the environmental conditions present in each of the lakes.

In the future, Mormile hopes to return to Australia to isolate and characterize the bacteria in each of four of the lakes originally sampled to determine what, if any, new species may be thriving there.

Once Mormile knows what organisms are present in the lake, she can then determine things like how they consume carbon sources and produce energy.

Knowing the types of metabolism present in these acidic high-saline lakes would help researchers understand the metabolism required for life on Mars.

"As a microbiologist, it seems obvious that wherever there is liquid water, there is usually life present," Mormile says. "Just because you can't see it with the naked eye, doesn't mean it isn't there," she added. (ANI)

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