A team of researchers exploring a Mexican cave system claimed to have discovered microbial life trapped in crystals that could be as many as 50,000 years old.
Penelope Boston, chief of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, said the weird and ancient microbes were found dormant inside crystals in a cave system in Naica, Mexico. The researchers also determined that the microbe were able to exist by living on minerals like iron and manganese.
The newly discovered life forms (40 strains of microbes and some viruses) are so bizarre that their nearest relatives are still more than ten per cent different genetically.
University of South Florida biologist Norine Noonan, who was not part of the research, said, “Why are we surprised? As a biologist I would say life on Earth is extremely tough and extremely versatile.”
Calling the microbes “super life,” Boston said their find provides a strong example of how microorganisms can survive in tremendously punishing conditions. It is an encouraging discovery for those who are searching for life on other planets that have harsh environments.
The discovery of the bizarre cave life was detailed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston on Friday.