979853534

Photo by: David Merron

David Merron

What the Missing Antarctic Microbes Mean for Life on Other Planets

Scientists searching for microbes in Antarctica came up with none. What could these findings mean for the possibility of life beyond earth?

July 26, 2021

Microbes can be invisible to the naked eye, yet they form an integral part of every ecosystem on Earth. From grasslands and deserts to forests and marine habitats, microbes are found all over the planet. Typically, a spoonful of soil can contain billions of microbes.

Scientists, led by ecologist Noah Fierer collected 204 soil samples near Antarctica’s Shackleton Glacier. Surprisingly, the samples seemed incapable of hosting life — coming back with no microbes at all.

If confirmed, this will be the first time scientists have found soil that doesn’t support any microbial life. What’s more, experts say these conditions bear resemblance to the surface of Mars — giving researchers a look inside the possibility of life (or lack thereof) on the Red Planet. These findings suggest that an extremely cold and arid climate like that of the sample site may be incapable of hosting life.

This picture is a composite of Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) daily global images acquired at Ls 93? during a previous Mars year.of the Tharsis face of Mars

Mars at Ls 93?: Tharsis

Mars' arid landscape is similar to that of the soil samples taken in Antarctica.

Photo by: c/o NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

c/o NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Mars' arid landscape is similar to that of the soil samples taken in Antarctica.

While proving a negative in science is notoriously difficult, this leads to the question — If microbes can’t even survive in this Antarctic climate, what does that mean for life on other planets?

After years of experimenting on the Antarctic soil, Fierer’s team felt confident enough to declare they could not detect life in their samples. While other microbiology experts claim this could be a false-negative, even if there are just a few undetected microbes in the soil —there is still evidence that cold and dry climates pose a significant challenge to life.

Mountains and glaciers,  near Petermann Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica at sunset with snow, glaciers and ocean .

1313689072

The loneliest mountain tops in the world? Antarctic soil near Shackleton Glacier shows no signs of life.

Photo by: Gerald Corsi

Gerald Corsi

The loneliest mountain tops in the world? Antarctic soil near Shackleton Glacier shows no signs of life.

Next Up

Polar Heatwaves Raise Alarm On Ice Melt and Sea Level Rise

Polar heatwaves in the Arctic and Antarctic have climate scientists concerned about the possibility of rapid climate breakdown. Soaring seasonal temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius above normal in Antarctica and more than 20 Celsius in the Arctic could be a sign of cataclysmic shifts in both regions.

Using What We Know to Predict the Next Pandemic

How can we predict another pandemic? Researchers are utilizing what we have learned from COVID-19 to get in front of the potential pandemics of the future.

Scientists Are Resurrecting the Tasmanian Tiger from Extinction

Colossal Biosciences has announced it has begun work on the de-extinction of the thylacine, an iconic Australian marsupial eradicated by human hunting in 1936. Learn how they plan to do it in an exclusive interview with marsupial evolutionary biologist Andrew Pask Ph.D. and Colossal Co-Founder Ben Lamm.

23,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Discovered in America

Ancient human footprints found in New Mexico suggest people may have arrived in the Americas 10,000 years before scientists had previously thought.

Ancient DNA Reveals New Evidence, Changing What We Know About Human Evolution

New DNA evidence found in sediment from Denisova Cave in Siberia reveal that it may have been a common meeting place that overlapped with Neanderthal, Denisova, and Homo sapiens. Could this have altered our evolution as modern humans?

2 New Species Of Dinosaurs Found In Northwest China

A tale of two species. Massive sauropod dinosaurs discovered in northwestern China is the region’s first fossil discovery.

Gold Miner Discovers Mummified Baby Woolly Mammoth in Canada

A young miner struck something other than gold while digging in the permafrost of Canada’s Klondike. He stumbled across a 35,000-year-old preserved carcass of a woolly mammoth in impeccable condition.

Snow Storms in Texas? Let’s Talk About It

Freezing temperatures in the south and warming temperatures in the north? Something isn’t adding up.

This Country is Transforming an Abandoned Airport into a Green Oasis

Most old, disused airports are torn down to make way for shiny new developments, although at a huge cost and via a lengthy process.Not Tegel airport, in Berlin, Germany.

Does this Incredible New Discovery Mean We Should Believe in Fairies After All?

Archaeologists in China recently unveiled a fascinating new discovery of ancient communities worshiping fairies, after unearthing a “one of its kind” treasure trove at the famous Sanxingdui archeological site.