Navigation Links
Microbial oasis discovered beneath the Atacama Desert
Date:2/16/2012

Two metres below the surface of the Atacama Desert there is an 'oasis' of microorganisms. Researchers from the Center of Astrobiology (Spain) and the Catholic University of the North in Chile have found it in hypersaline substrates thanks to SOLID, a detector for signs of life which could be used in environments similar to subsoil on Mars.

Life is bustling under the driest desert on Earth. A Spanish-Chilean team of scientists have found bacteria and archaea (primitive microorganisms) living two metres below the hypersaline substrates in the Atacama Desert in Chile, according to the journal Astrobiology.

"We have named it a 'microbial oasis' because we found microorganisms developing in a habitat that was rich in halite (rock salt) and other highly hygroscopic compounds (anhydrite and perchlorate) that absorb water" explained Victor Parro, researcher from the Center of Astrobiology (INTA-CSIC, Spain) and coordinator of the study.

Furthermore, the substrates where the microbes live favour deliquescence, which means they can attract the limited moisture in the air, condensing it on the surface of the salt crystals. Thin films of water that are a few microns thick are thereby formed.

In this environment, the underground microorganisms grow with everything they need to live: food and water. The species are not very different from others in similar hypersaline environments, but the peculiar thing is that they were discovered at a depth of between 2 and 3 metres, without any oxygen or sunlight.

To carry out this investigation, scientists used an instrument called SOLID (Signs of Life Detector), which was developed by the research team with the aim of using it for future missions on Mars.

The core of SOLID is a biochip called LDChip which includes up to 450 antibodies to identify biological material, such as sugar, DNA and protein. Samples can be taken, incubated and processed automatically and the results can be observed in an image with shiny points that show the presence of certain compounds and microorganisms.

Using this technique, the researchers in collaboration with Catholic University of the North in Chile have confirmed the presence of underground archaea and bacteria in the desert. They also took samples from a depth of up to 5 metres and took them to the laboratory, where not only were they able to photograph the microorganisms with the electron microscope, but also 'brought them into life' when supplied with water.

Lessons for Mars

"If there are similar microbes on Mars or remains in similar conditions to the ones we have found in Atacama, we could detect them with instruments like SOLID" Parro highlighted.

The researcher explained that saline deposits have been found on the red planet, therefore it is possible to think that there maybe hypersaline environments in its subsoil. "The high concentration of salt has a double effect: it absorbs water between the crystals and lowers the freezing point, so that they can have thin films of water (in brine) at temperatures several degrees below zero, up to minus 20 C."

The high salt level and lack of water help preserve biological molecules, so that it was possible to find biological products in materials of this type, even though there were no live microorganisms since millions of years ago.


'/>"/>
Contact: SINC
info@agenciasinc.es
34-914-251-820
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. When under attack, plants can signal microbial friends for help
2. Unusual microbial ropes grow slowly in cave lake
3. Earths highest known microbial systems fueled by volcanic gases
4. Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test measures microbial nitrogen
5. MIT reels in RNA surprise with microbial ocean catch
6. Exploring standards to advance microbial genomics
7. Reviews of microbial gene language published in special issue of Trends in Microbiology
8. TAXIS Pharmaceuticals licenses novel antimicrobial technology from Rutgers and UMDNJ
9. Model microbial community for studying expanding dead zones characterized
10. UBC researchers find key microbial indicator of ocean health
11. New tool in the fight against mosquito-borne disease: A microbial mosquito net
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Microbial oasis discovered beneath the Atacama Desert
(Date:6/20/2016)... , June 20, 2016 Securus Technologies, ... technology solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections and ... prisons involved, it has secured the final acceptance ... facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) installed. Furthermore, ... facilities to be installed by October, 2016. MAS ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... -- Perkotek an innovation leader in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction ... to make sure the right employees are actually signing in, and to even control ... ... ... ...
(Date:6/3/2016)... LONDON , June 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... Transport Management) von Nepal ... ,Angebot und Lieferung hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich ... weltweit führend in der Produktion und Implementierung ... an der Ausschreibung im Januar teilgenommen, aber ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical ... novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness pathways, ... been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. ... of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. ... designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 A person commits a crime, and the ... track the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne ... Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria ... far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, ... foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. ... test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI ... stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a university competition that asks ... systems and biotechnology, announced its winning teams at the ... York City . The teams, chosen ... MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during the daylong summit. Keynote ... of architecture and design, and Suzanne Lee , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: