Status Report

Survival of Methanogens During Desiccation: Implications for Life on Mars

By SpaceRef Editor
August 22, 2006
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Survival of Methanogens During Desiccation: Implications for Life on Mars

Aug 2006, Vol. 6, No. 4: 546-551

Full Paper

The relatively recent discoveries that liquid water likely existed on the surface of past Mars and that methane currently exists in the martian atmosphere have fueled the possibility of extant or extinct life on Mars. One possible explanation for the existence of the methane would be the presence of methanogens in the subsurface. Methanogens are microorganisms in the domain Archaea that can metabolize molecular hydrogen as an energy source and carbon dioxide as a carbon source and produce methane. One factor of importance is the arid nature of Mars, at least at the surface. If one is to assume that life exists below the surface, then based on the only example of life that we know, liquid water must be present. Realistically, however, that liquid water may be seasonal just as it is at some locations on our home planet. Here we report on research designed to determine how long certain species of methanogens can survive desiccation on a Mars soil simulant, JSC Mars-1. Methanogenic cells were grown on JSC Mars-1, transferred to a desiccator within a Coy anaerobic environmental chamber, and maintained there for varying time periods. Following removal from the desiccator and rehydration, gas chromatographic measurements of methane indicated survival for varying time periods. Methanosarcina barkeri survived desiccation for 10 days, while Methanobacterium formicicum and Methanothermobacter wolfeii were able to survive for 25 days.

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