A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo has revealed that marine rocks could help scientists find life on Mars, whether current or past. Experts discovered a vast array of single-celled microorganisms living among the small cracks in volcanic rocks found in the Pacific Ocean in 2010.
According to the study published in the scientific journal Communications Biology, the cracks in the analyzed rocks are home to a community of bacteria as large as that which exists in the human intestine. In all, there are about 10 billion cells per cubic centimeter. Scientists explain that, by comparison, the average density of bacteria living in the seabed sediment is only 100 cells per cubic centimeter.
The volcanic rocks found by Japanese researchers are between 13.5 and 104 million years old. Yohey Suzuki, one of the main researchers, explains in a statement that the cracks identified are no more than the size of 1 millimeter that, over millions of years, are being filled with clay minerals.
Clay minerals are just like a magical material on Earth, says Yohey Suzuki, explaining that there is always a great possibility of finding microbes to live in them as well. The microorganisms identified are aerobic bacteria that use a process similar to human cells to generate energy, depending on oxygen and organic nutrients to survive.
Scientists indicate that the clay materials present in the crevices of rocks found in the ocean may be similar to those found in the rocks on the Martian surface. The team led by Yohey Suzuki will begin collaboration with NASA's Johnson Space Center to develop a plan to examine rocks collected on Mars by rovers like Curiosity.
Remember that if everything goes as planned, the Preserverance rover will analyze the Jezero crater on Mars to look for signs of life, taking into account the results of some investigations. The first points to the existence of carbonate deposits in the Martian crater – which was once a lake. The second indicates that it is rich in hydrated silica, a mineral that is particularly good at preserving bio signatures.